Film Review “Maniac”

ManiacPosterStarring: Elijah Wood, America Olivo, Nora Arnezeder
Directed By: Franck Khalfoun
Rated: R
Running Time: 89 minutes

Our Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars

This updated Maniac is an improvement on the original in every way. Whether or not this is a recommendation depends heavily upon your opinion of William Lustig’s 1980 cult film. It is definitely not for the squeamish.

Maniac follows Frank (Elijah Wood, more from Sin City than the Shire) a loner who lives in a warehouse with a collection of mannequins he restores for a living. When he’s not at this, he’s prowling an eerie, deserted Los Angeles for female victims to kill and scalp due to some serious mommy issues. Actually, we don’t follow Frank so much as actually get inside his head. The best way to describe Maniac’s dominant visual style is “first person stabber.” It’s an interesting gimmick to take the famed slasher POV in a horror film and just stay in it, however it eventually wears out its welcome as I felt some motion sickness setting in. Thankfully, director Franck Khalfoun does opt to exit Frankvision for some of the key murder scenes in order to underscore his loss of control over his darker side, as well as to showcase some truly remarkable gore from KNB effects. The climatic bloody finale which brings Frank’s victims back to attack is really something to see here.

Frank’s killing spree is disrupted by Anna (Nora Arnezeder) a photographer who finds Frank’s mannequins appealing subjects for her upcoming gallery show. The interactions of Wood and Arnezeder are one of the film’s strengths. Anna here is much sweeter and the considerably younger Wood looks more believable than Joe Spinell’s Frank trying to fit in with his future victims. Just the idea that Anna’s appreciation for Frank’s work is what draws her to his shop makes for a much stronger tension as to whether or not Frank will treat her the same as all the other ill-fated women who have crossed his path. After inhabiting the
disgusting Frank it’s a relief to have a sympathetic character to grasp onto when Anna comes along.

Having better drawn characters than the 1980 movie still doesn’t leave us with much depth though. Besides being a remake, the film also features nods to other genre films such as Silence of the Lambs and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Maniac does not fare well in drawing these comparisons. Despite all the stylish upgrades from the original, Maniac will most likely still appeal to only the most diehard gorehounds.

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