Some movies are more memorable for the performance of their casts than for, well, anything else. Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 would be a footnote if not for the astronomically bad overacting of the lead. Sleepaway Camp 2 would be just another unremarkable late eighties slasher pic if it weren’t for the chipper, upbeat killer Angela played by the inimitable Pamela Springsteen.
And Psycho Cop would be nothing without Robert R. Shafer.
Psycho Cop is closer to Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 than Sleepaway Camp 2. Pamela Springsteen was a great actor. Shafer, on the other hand…
The movie opens with a newly married couple being brutally murdered in a secluded spot by Joe Vickers, a policeman is who a fucking Satanist (and possibly a psycho). Sometime later, a group of good looking yuppies arrive at a rural mansion to do a spot of partying. On the way there, they incur the wrath of Vickers, who follows them in his squad car.
Vickers picks the kids off one by one, starting with the caretaker and working his way down. Several of his victims are beguiled by his uniform. Certainly a cop will protect us from the murderer loose among us! Wrong!
A couple of good cops do eventually show up, and reveal that Vickers is really Gary Henley, an escaped mental patient who managed to join the force. Gee, do they just give anyone a gun?
Vickers is eventually killed and that’s it.
There isn’t much to the plot, and what’s there is basically a rehash of the same basic story that slasher directors had been telling since Halloween in 1978: Crazed man kills teenagers. Guys like John Carpenter, Wes Craven, and Sean S. Cunningham realized that you have to take that basic premise and dress it up to get noticed. Whether it’s great acting, crazy gore, good writing, a unique villain…every slasher movie needs something to set it apart, because they all tell the same story, and if you have fifty people telling the same story at any given time, you’re going to have to do something to break out of the pack.
Psycho Cop does nothing to break out of the pack. It is generic, boring, and poorly acted. I mean, the idea of a cop killing people is interesting. That basic thumbnail has my attention. But you need more than just a premise. You need to go somewhere with it.
I mentioned Robert R. Shafer earlier. Shafer is the only reason this movie is not completely buried and forgotten…and he achieved that by delivering one the worst performances I have ever seen from an actor. A big, fucking lumbering tree trunk could have done better. He delivers all of his lines in this cheesy monotone, and his one liners suck. Most one liners do, mind you, but this asshole takes the cake. I don’t know what graveyard the filmmakers dug him out of, but they should have left his dead ass there.
Yet, I was intrigued enough to watch the sequel. And you know what? I actually liked it…