Psycho Cop

By 1989, the golden age of slashers had been exsanguinated. If you consider Mario Bava’s A Bay of Blood the genre prototype, and the blueprint for this kind of film, Psycho Cop represents a coda of sorts. Hell, they both contain the meat cleaver between the eyes kill, which by this point had become so overused that even Jason Voorhees had moved on. Also, the film comes shortly on the heels of the audacious Maniac Cop, minus the story, subversion, effects and star power (hello, Richard Roundtree, Bruce Campbell, Tom Atkins).

The best cop-centric movies are the ones which question our relationship with law enforcement, like Robocop, while the worst (and this includes Psycho Cop) barely make use of the conceit to generate thrills.

For instance, the fiberoptic cable-thin plot (serial killer cop goes after college students on a weekend getaway) doesn’t even require a police officer as the antagonist.

After all, the film lays its cards on the table in the first 15 minutes as the partiers notice they’re being tailed by a cop acting strangely. So it’s not like he’s using his authority in any way that could be construed as particularly devious or clever, such as going after a lone female motorist on a desolate stretch of road, or using his authority to gain entry into an apartment. And since he mostly lurks in the woods outside the students’ Air B’n’B-styled accommodations, it hardly matters if he flashes a badge.

The most egregious aspect of Psycho Cop, however, apart from the static direction that wouldn’t pass muster as a CPR training video, is the near-constant references to beer as a plot device. Now, I like beer as much as the next guy (unless that guy is Ben Affleck, allegedly) but my god…”we’re out of beer,” “pass me a beer,” “we went through a case of beer?” “Did Zack go to get beer?” gets really old and comprises at least one-fifth of the runtime.

So, what we’re left with is a Ten Little Indians-styled stalk-and-slash with a bunch of very interchangeably ripped frat guys, their hot girlfriends, but strangely, no nudity and one liners, which like the beer…fall flat.

*1/2 (out of 5)

The Brain

Fans of mad scientists and tentacled thingies will no doubt find favour with The Brain, a late 80s off-the-grid Canadian horror positioned around the mysterious, furtive goings on at the Psychology Research Institute, or PRI.

PRI is the “brain”, uh…child of one Dr. Blakely, a smooth self-help guru and smarmy host of Independent Thinkers, a popular cable TV show. The doc takes on a patient, Jim Majelewski, a juvenile delinquent with a hairline that’s anything but, an incorrigible high school prankster whose folks are completely flummoxed about how he’s pissing away his future and are desperate for an intervention, however unorthodox.

In the lab the doc, square jawed David Gale of Re-Animator fame, hooks young Jim up to a giant, gooey, pulsating cerebrum and soon, the youngster is being plagued by hallucinations, which spectacularly come to life at his girlfriend’s place of employment, a fried chicken joint.

After a few locals are murdered (including one via chainsaw a la Lucio Fulci’s Touch of Death), investigating officers point fingers at the increasingly erratic Jim, who is on the lam (actually, there’s probably too much driving in this one, think Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, minus the fun soundtrack and Brad Pitt).

The townsfolk, meanwhile, are becoming increasingly entranced by the satellite signals emanating from the lab and via TV screens. Or something. It’s very Invasion of the Body Snatchers, thematically if not in terms of execution.

Still, fans of tax shelter Canadian horrors will definitely get a few kicks out of this one, as will fans of super fan practical effects-centric flicks like The Video Dead or Brain Damage.

***1/4 (out of 5)