It has finally happened! Psycho Cop Returns has as last come to Blu-ray thanks to Vinegar Syndrome. As a bonus, you even get a copy of it as Psycho Cop II on DVD. You know what would have been an even better bonus? Getting the completely unavailable Psycho Cop 1 as a bonus. I’m not sure why we didn’t get a double feature Blu-ray of both the first and second film since they have both been MIA for a majority of the DVD era, particularly in the U.S. Hell, I would have been happy to have even a simple DVD copy of the first Psycho Cop thrown in as a bonus with Psycho Cop Returns if they didn’t want to go through the trouble of giving it an HD remaster. But alas, for now, my collection shall have to remain incomplete. Which is a shame, because the first film is somewhat of a lost late 80s slasher goodie.
PSYCHO COP (1989)
Psycho Cop is clearly a cheap, direct-to-video cash in following the success of Maniac Cop a year before. It’s also a much more straightforward slasher. Kids go to stay at a house in the woods and are stalked by a crazed killer.
Nothing particularly sets this one apart from all the copycat slashers of the era, but it fits like a comfortable old sweater. The killer’s backstory is simple—he’s a cop that’s into Satanism. That’s it. He’s not back from the dead like Maniac Cop. And he’s kookoo, which explains his need to make quips as he’s chasing and killing his victims—a requirement of late 80s slashers.
However, the film itself isn’t horror comedy. It takes the slasher elements seriously, with a genuine 80s horror synth score, dark lighting, fog machines, bogus jump scares, chase scenes, body reveals, standard 80s slasher kills and gore, and a long final battle with the main girl. One thing surprisingly missing is sex and nudity, although the guys do show off their tight bods at the pool.
Even so, while Psycho Cop pretty much does everything a slasher is supposed to do, it simply isn’t a great film. It lacks tension, suspense, and scares, plus the pacing drags. The kids aren’t entertaining between kills (that’s why kids got naked and had sex in 80s slashers). Plus, the killer is just some regular dude in a cop uniform, not a deformed, superhuman masked killer.
Don’t get me wrong. Actor Robert R. Shafer does a fine job as the killer cop. But this film came out in an era of flix about men we’re supposed to trust who turn out to be bat shit crazy – The Stepfather, The Dentist, Ice Cream Man, etc., etc., etc. – and by then, I was an adult and that shit was child’s play to me.
PSYCHO COP RETURNS (1993)
The sequel definitely makes up for the lack of nudity in the first film. It’s a perfect example of 80s horror suffering from 90s sequel syndrome. This is all out campy exploitation horror filled with sex, nudity, and more of a grindhouse gore feel than the original. Robert R. Shafer returns as the Psycho Cop, and he has a much bigger presence, both in terms of his one-liners and a beefier build.
Two guys have a secret sex party in their office building after work. Problem is, Psycho Cop is back, and he heard them talking about their plans in a diner, so he shows up to stop the copious amounts of copulating—and stripping. There’s loads of stripping.
No surprise, considering softcore b-queen Julie Strain is one of the stars. But despite all the naked chicks, there’s a surprisingly generous full-framed man ass shot in the film as well.
What more to say? The film isn’t scary, suspenseful, or atmospheric – it’s over-the-top slasher crap of the early 90s, not genuine slasher material of the 1980s. The kills are there to make you cheer, as are the charms of our killer hero. His shtick just works better here because the tone of the film matches it. You either like this brand of slasher silliness or you don’t.
While there’s a much better setup for a third sequel at the end of this one, sadly we never got a trilogy.