Psycho Cop (1989)


A small-town policeman readies himself for a busy day by going through his daily routine of praying at a bloody, pentagram-covered alter and then ritualistically washing his hands in blood. Then he puts on his hat and gloves and goes to work. His first task is to kill a newly married couple who just stopped and wanted to ask for directions. They tried to run, but as we all know, that’s a big no-no with cops, so he puts them in their place.

That done he takes a break, searching for the next person he can ‘help’. And what luck! Three young couples looking to spend a quiet weekend in the country at a nice, secluded vacation house happen to drive right by him. Surely these scrawny yuppies have no business being out in the woods and will surely need his assistance. And he’s going to give it to them. Even if it takes him all night to do his job.

psycho_cop_2Vacation house, hell. That’s a small Spanish villa.

The plot of Psycho Cop is painfully simple: An unusually strong and creepy dude stalks and kills a bunch of young’uns in the woods. It’s really about as a generic a slasher plot as slasher plots can be. It’s the kind of film that someone makes if they have a camera, a small budget, a group of friends, a weekend to kill, and they just finished their Slasher 101 course at the community college and got an ‘A’ on the final. The only real standout here is that the murderous killer happens to be a police officer. But even that isn’t much of a standout, as that particular shtick had already been supplied the year before with Maniac Cop.

psycho_cop_3But I’ll give them bonus points for actually filming at night… Even if it’s dark as hell and I can barely see anything.

Back when these ‘killer cop’ films came out they were perhaps a bit more sensationalized, but these days the idea of a crazy cop isn’t that far fetched. Rare is the day where you can skim through the news and not find some kind of story about some law enforcement officer doing something despicable. But back in the dark days before internet use was widespread and social media was but a pipe dream, stories about rogue cops were much more rare. Nowadays, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who wasn’t at least a little bit jaded not only by all the negative stories about cops, but also about the follow-up articles about how their departments only gave them a slap on the wrist if they got caught doing anything wrong. But I think it’s safe to say that not even the most questionable of police departments would want to touch this particular Psycho Cop with a 50-foot pole. Because this guy is just a straight-up loon.

Some people try to hide their crazy. But not Officer Vickers. No, Officer Vickers lets his psycho-freak flag fly. This suspiciously strong nutcase draws pentagrams in the dirt, kills cats and hangs them from trees, spouts cheesy, cop-related one-liners, and walks around with a perpetual bug-eyed stare that just screams “I CAN’T BE TRUSTED!” to anyone within a 5-mile radius. Or at least it would, if anyone in this movie had a brain bigger than the size of a piece of quinoa.

psycho_cop_4Why of course I’m trustworthy. Why do you ask?

Most victims in horror films wind up being from the low end of the intelligence curve, but some of these guys are scraping the bottom of the common sense barrel. Items of theirs go missing, the caretaker mysteriously disappears and they hear on the radio that there might be a potentially dangerous person out there. Do they care? Nope. Of course not. They just want to drink beer and lounge by the pool. And when they do care enough to worry about something, it’s about something trivial, like the sound of someone chopping wood or that they can’t find a can of soup. Like, really? Your doofus friend hasn’t come back for hours and you’re worried about soup? Oi vey. 

The not-insane police that show up later in the film don’t fare much better, either. The two of them must have been rookies, because even after confirming that the crazed maniac is out there, they split up and continuously drop their guard at every opportunity. With that kind of dedication to their job, I’m surprised they made it through the academy.

Only two characters in this film seem to possess a modicum of self preservation, but they spend most of their time trying not to be gaslighted by their dopy friends, who seem more interested in maintaining their ‘Whoo hoo! Vacation!’ buzz than they do about listening to genuine concerns. You can pick them out easily, thanks to them having enough foresight to bring matching outfits on their little weekend trip. I gotta give the two of them credit, though. They steadfastly stuck around to try to save their dumb friends, running around the dark woods that they knew were dangerous, even after being accused of cheating on their respective partners and being called crazy for most of the night. That’s some dedicated friendship right there.

Of course, it could also be rampant stupidity. It’s hard to tell what they were going for in this film.

psycho_cop_5Me, I’m not that good a friend. I’d have left their asses for dead hours ago.

To add to the painful dumbassery, the movie also adds bad acting to the mix. Just about everyone here feels stilted and forced, and I wouldn’t be surprised if one or more of them were reading their lines off a cue card. The only one who looked like he was having any fun was Psycho Cop. All the kids were all blatantly stereotypical, even though they don’t always come across that way. I get the feeling that they were supposed to be fitting into these little trope-y molds, but most of them couldn’t pull it off. Does that make sense? 

Of course, you’ve got the ditz. She probably does the best job of filling her role. She spends a lot of time wandering around with a blank look on her face, either obsessively brushing her hair or searching for her hairbrush so that she can brush her air. Then you’ve got the sporty looking girl, the smart girl, the prep, the asshole, and the guy I refer to as Mr. Bland. They all fill their roles adequately with dull enthusiasm. Except the asshole. I think he was supposed to be the forceful, angry type, but instead he kept coming across as the whiny, snarky gay friend. I was very confused.

It shouldn’t be surprising that most of the people featured in this film didn’t go on to do anything else.

psycho_cop_6Then again, based on those green shorts maybe he was confused.

The film seems to know that it can’t stand with the likes of more serious slashers, so it tries to be lighthearted and add a bit of humor into the script. Unfortunately, no one can act, so their timing and delivery is horrible and all the jokes fall flat. The titular Cop also likes to spout pithy cop-related one liners like, “You shouldn’t run from the police” and “I’m going to have to throw the book at you.” Admittedly, it is amusing watching him walk around with that dopey grin on his face and ask about the weather right before he shoots someone in the head and then laughs like a robot, but Freddy Kruger this guy ain’t.

psycho_cop_7_2This ain’t Freddy either, I just think he looks like a Harlequin actor who accidentally wandered onto the set.

But the movie does manage to be funny, just not in the way it was intended. Most of the humor comes from mocking the characters, the poor acting and picking up all the films quirks and continuity issues. For instance, there’s a lot of day-over-here, night-over-there moments peppered throughout the film. In one extremely easy to notice goof, one of the characters gets an axe to the skull and two seconds later one of the kids takes off his headphones and says he just heard someone scream. Okay dude, 1) there’s no way you could have heard that and 2) Axe Head didn’t even scream. Hell, he didn’t moan or anything. The only sound he made was from his corpse hitting the dirt. Other oddities include a visual outline of a missing axe and, despite the film’s lack of nudity, having two ladies inexplicabley decide to bathe together.

psycho_cop_7Did…did you seriously spray paint outlines of all your tools?
psycho_cop_8Honey, do you need something to put on all those bites on your leg thanks to that anthill you apparently fell into?
psycho_cop_9Dude, there is no way you could have heard her shit-talking from 30 feet away and through a closed window.

So, is Psycho Cop any good? Well, it’s like a poor man’s Maniac Cop. In other words, if you’re looking for a serious slasher or any kind of nudity or gore, then no. But if you’re looking for something to watch that’s silly and cheesy and don’t mind the low production values then it this isn’t so bad. You can tell that they were at least trying to make something good, they just sadly couldn’t pull it off. The script is poor, the characters are thin and the killer is goofy as hell. But it does have some decent kills (one guy is tazed in the junk to death) and it has some surprisingly well framed shots. Mind you, that doesn’t necessarily mean I think it’s any good, but if you’re looking for a cheesy horror comedy you could do worse. After all, if it were worse they wouldn’t have managed to land themselves a sequel (yes, it got a sequel.)

Psycho Cop is currently available for streaming on Amazon Prime.

It also has a region-free PAL DVD release, which means you can watch it, but you might also have to jump through a couple of hoops to do so. Other than that, it doesn’t look like it’s available on anything other than VHS stateside. 

It’s sequel, Psycho Cop Returns, has received a Bluray.



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