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Psycho Cop Returns (Blu-ray Review)

The original Psycho Cop released in 1989 sort of quietly but moreso was something to be checked out during the late 1980s boom of VHS home video.  Said slasher was a super cheapy that has aged itself into something campy.  That first film is still awaiting some sort of Blu-ray release. Another four years would pass and suddenly it was getting a sequel, giving officer Vickers another killing spree, something Harry Warden was never even alotted.  Psycho Cop Returns is making its debut on the format via the wonderful folks over at Vinegar Syndrome. In addition to a new scan, their release includes a documentary, commentary and interview focusing on the special effects. You can pre-order now for release on April 25th.

Film 

Officer Joe Vickers is the meanest and deadliest “cop” in LA, leaving behind a never-ending stream of bloodied bodies, in the name of justice. The fact that he also happens to be a Satan worshiping member of the undead doesn’t help much either. After overhearing some office workers discussing a secret drug and sex filled after-hours party they’re planning to host that night, Vickers decides to take the law into his own hands, disposing of the rebel rousers in a series of gruesome ways. Will the hapless partiers be able to outsmart and survive his brutal tactics before the night is through?

Did Psycho Cop need a sequel? Well, this film says it certainly did! This second outing for Officer Vickers winds up surpassing the original by just completely going for a screwy crazy film that knows exactly what its doing in all aspects. Director Adam Rifkin (Going under his B-Movie pseudonym for this film) throws out trying to be a cheapie that captures some magic terror and goes balls out with low budget sleeze, gore and comedy. Psycho Cop Returns is full of the primal slasher meat and potatoes: blood, guts, creative kills, idiot victims and boobs.

Robert R. Shafer returns to his Vickers role (Which he had to re-audition for) and this time works more of a charm because the movie is more in the tone of what he tried for the first time. The movie knows damn well how ridiculous this character and his mission is and allows it to just run rampant. There are some cool, super bloody and gory moments in this uncut rendition (Seen for the first time) to go with a good ratio of eye-rolling and giggling in his one-liners.

This film has one of the silliest set ups in slasher history that just doesn’t give a rip. There’s a office building bachelor party where some moron dudes have stripper-hookers in and party. The characters are all idiots, but its just funny to watch them in action. Us guys who came into adolescence in the 1990s will recognize the lovely Julie Strain as one of the stripper-hookers, who is one of the top billed people (Highlighted as “1993 Penthouse Pet of the Year”), and barely has any lines to go with the weakest death of the movie. This is probably one of her most non-Cinemax movies of her career too. Another funny thing, the “Final Girl” in the film is an actor who, while present in beginning-middle-end, is barely in the movie until the final chase.

Is Psycho Cop Returns high art or even a top notch slasher? No, not even close. But is it a really fun watch? Very much so.  The film improves in pretty much every aspect on the first one. Its technical aspects and artistry is light years beyond the first film. It also knows what it is, and relishes in it. The energy the film gives you feels like this movie was a lot of fun to work on. You can just sense it within every frame. For vintage slasher fanatics, this one really is a collector’s item as Blu-ray feels it could be the last stop to own it.  Psycho Cop Returns succeeds in a wonderful trifecta; as a slasher, an exploitation film and a comedy.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:  Psycho Cop Returns has been transferred onto Blu-ray in a new 2K scan from a strong 35mm source. Due to the nature of the cheaper film stock used for the movie, details and sharpness are only so strong. However, the transfer and attention to restoration is so good that this looks really full and captures plenty of detail. Especially in the gore department you get really solid details. The xerox copies look really strong for some reason too as well as the individual dazzle of the stripper/hooker outfits. Overall, like most cheap horror films done by Vinegar Syndrome, it looks better than it has any business being and better than a lot of big studio films that should appear better than it.

Depth:  Dimensions come quite good as there is some real solid spacing between characters, objects and the background which appears slightly above average in the “pushed back” sort of look. Movements are very cinematic in nature and no blurring or juttering is ever an issue.

Black Levels:  This is a pretty dark film and the image really handles the deepness of them well. It surprisingly doesn’t get super grainy or anything in all the darkness. The corners of the screen get the darkest and bring a little sort of smoothness around them. Detail loss is at medium and like true to source. No crushing was witnessed on this viewing of the film.

Color Reproduction:  Colors pop their brightest on stripper outfit pieces and the girl in the office with the blasting pink dress.  Blood red takes on a nice deep look. Overall there are a lot of natural colors in the mix and this handles them with plenty of tints and tones.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones take on a natural look for their appearance and it maintains a consistency throughout the film. Facial details like stubble, dried blood, make-up, scars and wrinkles all fair very well in close-ups and look decent in medium shots.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Mono DTS-HD MA, English Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics:  Both Psycho Cop Returns‘ mono and stereo tracks seem to suffer from some poor sourcing. This is no fault of Vinegar Syndrome’s and they’ve done what they can with it to a commendable effort. The music and songs can register too loud in this mix and at a couple times it’ll drown out dialogue. For example, there is a scene in an elevator shaft where Vicker’s barks a one-liner and you can barely make out what he says.  Effects sound pretty decent. Where it lacks is the balance and the music, score and effects stepping on each other’s toes at intermittent points in the film. It is loud and can be effects, but it can lack in clarity, balance and distortions.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals vary in different scenes or settings. In the open, it sounds really canned and in other times it can register with a little too much bass. Dialogue can waiver here and there, with some hissing and peaking at times, but its probably one of the weaker portions of this mix.

Extras 

Psycho Cop Returns comes with the DVD edition of the film. There is also a limited printing edition of 1,666 that comes with a really top notch slip cover made of sturdier and glossy material. The back of the box says there is reversible cover art, but the back of the copy I received is just white.

Audio Commentary

  • With Director Adam Rifkin – Moderated by one of the Vinegar Syndrome crew, the director gives a nice honest, fun and energetic look at the film which sort of gives a real feel for his attitude when making it (Refers to shooting one moment in slow motion pretty much just because or to be ridiculous).

“Habeas Corpus” (HD, 42:46) – A documentary on making the film with interviews from Adam Rifkin, Robert R. Shafer, Dan Povenmire, Peter Schink, Miles Dougal, Rod Sweitzer, Nick Vallelonga, Barbara Niven and Melanie Good. Sadly no sign of Julie Strain (Though there is a story about her asking Dan Povenmire to draw a picture of her having sex with Bart Simpson).  Rifkin gives background on his plan for using his director alias. This gives the story of a film that everyone felt they knew they were making a “bad” film and just went with it. Robert R. Shafer (Who signed a 5-film deal before shooting this one, thinking he’d be the next Freddy Krueger) gives a sort of look at his career, his acting studies, his method and talks some roles like Bob Vance on The Office. The rest of everyone gives a fun colorful look at the film, making a fondness for it go stronger after watching.

“The Victims of Vickers” (HD, 9:32) – An interview with SFX artist Mike Tristano. He gets on a big kick about the 90s being the last great era for cinema, primarily independent cinema. Tristano does get on a kick on why things were so much better back then, but he does get into detail about his disappointment in the edits and how to craft some good kills with such a low budget. There are also some production stills and behind the scenes photos of the effects that play during the interview.

Summary 

Psycho Cop Returns is a loving, goofy parody of the slasher film (Or even the first film) that is the perfect kind of film to watch with like minded people and some good brews.  Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray finds itself very informative in the bonus feature department and got back a lot of people to tell the tale of making it in complete honesty. The video transfer is quite the looker, though the audio seems to be coming from a bit of problematic source or mix original which I can’t really fault them for.  Officer Vicker’s second slashfest makes for quite a fun and worthy Blu-ray venture for your collection. Pick it up!

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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