When it comes to low-budget, horror does it better than most genres. While it’s difficult to make a convincing action or sci-fi flick on a shoestring, horror lends itself to a lo-fi approach (which is one of the reasons big name Hollywood chillers are usually so disappointing). It’s ironic, therefore, that PMS COP, writer/director Bryon Blakey’s ultra-low-budget satirical splatterfest, owes at least as much to sci-fi classics ROBOCOP and THE TERMINATOR as it does to its more obvious horror antecedents. It probably shouldn’t work, but its many gory effects are accomplished enough to satisfy the most bloodthirsty horror fan, and it circumvents its sci-fi shortcomings by sheer tongue-in-cheek gusto.
By name and nature PMS COP could have been deeply offensive. The title’s brilliant, but isn’t exactly even-handed. Thankfully, Blakey isn’t interested in pursuing a misogynistic agenda – the small number of ‘time of the month’ jokes are soon eclipsed by more damning indictments of aggressive male sexuality and corporate greed. All of which is in danger of making PMS COP sound much more serious than it actually is. There are moments of genuine drama, and the satire, although broad, is often on the nose, but Blakey is far more concerned with having a good time than making any serious socio-political points.
It’s hard not to enjoy a film that starts with a lingering shower scene, followed by a comedy clown rape. It’s a risky opening gambit, but Blakey strikes an effective balance between funny and offensive, setting the tone for the rest of the film. After being publically vilified for the excessive punishment she metes out to the rapist, on-the-edge cop Mary (Heather Hall) is mandated by an image-conscious police department to undertake therapy for her anger issues, at which point she’s recruited by a sinister pharmaceutical company to take part in experimental drug trials. Anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the horror genre will recognise that as a Very Bad Idea, and the drug transforms her into a super-strong avenger/killing machine, in the mould of the above-mentioned Robocop and Terminator. Blakey’s film is at its best when it allows Mary/PMS Cop free rein, delighting in the über-violence and (sorta) social commentary. The practical special effects are gory and inventive, and Blakey doesn’t pull his directorial punches. Nor does he take it seriously. Jaws are unhinged, limbs torn off, eyeballs extracted and silicone implants removed in an orgy of gleeful excess.
As enjoyable as all this is, PMS COP isn’t without problems. Certain scenes drag, and when Mary disappears for most of the second act the narrative loses momentum. Everything gets back on track for a rousing finale, but the fact remains that it’s not as much fun when the Cop isn’t around. Another issue is the variable tone. In places Blakey abandons his tongue-in-cheek approach in an attempt to flesh out the villainous corporation. A little less screen time dedicated to pseudo-scientific exposition would have resulted in a leaner, more streamlined film.
These are minor quibbles. PMS COP is predicated on a brilliantly irreverent conceit that manages to marry the callous corporate mentality and over-the-top sci-fi ultraviolence of Verhoeven and early Cameron with the cult drive-in sensibility of films like FRIDAY THE 13TH, MANIAC COP and HALLOWEEN. The cast of unknowns give it their all (Hall as Mary and Cindy Means as the Cop are particularly good), and the effects also impress. Part comedy, part big business satire and part full-throttle horror, PMS COP is both funny and gross-out obscene. The perfect Friday night watch, cult status surely beckons.