Lustig’s 1980s sleaze-fest is still to this date is not only one of our favourite movies here at Beyond the Gore, but what could be considered, along with perhaps ‘Henry: Portrait of a serial Killer’, one of the most intimate serial killer movies ever made. It showed in depth the motives, compulsions and psychosis of a man no longer in control of his actions, and coupled with Savini’s legendary gore effects it was one hell of a visceral trip!
Cut to 2012 and we have a very risky release indeed. Just like ‘Halloween’ there was a certain magic within ‘Maniac’ that would be difficult to emulate, sure you can copy the plot, even make it really gory, but would you capture the essence of what made the movie good?
Initially I was sceptical, but when you looked at the roster of talent involved in the production of the film (both writers Aja and Levasseur and directorKhalfoun were involved in both P2 and Haute Tension in some way) it became apparent that there was a definite opportunity for this movie to share the ethos of the first movie. Elijah Wood as the maniac was a definite departure from Joe Spinell’solder grimy portrayal of the troubled ‘Frank’, but still he had played the part of a cannibal in Rodriguez’ ‘Sin City’, so perhaps he was the right choice after all; I mean let’s face it with all the ‘stranger-danger’ education these days it would be unlikely any of the films beautiful victims would be likely to enter any non-public area with the 1980’s Frank!
The plot sees a psychotic man Frank treading a fine line between sanity and insane. Clearly troubled by his childhood he impulsively kills women, keeping their scalps for his mannequin role-play. Searching for a release from his sickness he fixates on a young photographer hoping she could be the one to break his murderous cycle. The movie is almost completely shot through the eyes of the killer and whilst in most movies POV is simply a gimmick, here it feels essential. Not a hand held camera to offer a shaky perspective, in ‘Maniac’ we aren’t just looking through his eyes, we are in his head. Effective use of camera shots and visual effects we see his hallucinations, experience his mental deterioration and of course see how murder truly looks from the perspective of the deranged. Rather than being a distracting perspective it has quite the opposite effect in Maniac, it draws you into the movie on a very personal level. After watching this movie you won’t be free from it for days.
Recent press releases were extremely enthusiastic to report that the movie passed through BBFC censors untouched and so what is offered up is a fully uncut version of the movie. Quite frankly how it got passed the censors I don’t know - the violence in this movie is a notch above most. Influenced heavily by Argento’s renowned Giallo style the violence in ‘Maniac’ is very much an extension of the character not just the act. Every knife thrust and the sheer frenzy of attack is given meaning, you can almost feel the rage, not to mention the calming sequences which follow the scalpings used to highlight his return to normality. The gore effects are awesome, and I kid you not, some of the lesser wounds had us questioning whether indeed they were even effects. Whilst sadly there was no iconic shotgun scene, the ending was a complete show stopper and features the movies most gory moments.
To complement the violence the movie, the score by ‘Rob’ is a great homage to 1980’s Argento movies and its pulsing synth rhythms that accompany Frank’s movements adds a great atmosphere to the movie. Aside from the good camera work already mentioned there are some nice touches here and there which pay subtle homage to the original, one being the reflection of Frank standing with the severed head as per the 1980s controversial artwork. It’s a nice fan service without ruining the identity of this movie. The acting is really top notch, and when you consider the demands put on actors to act ‘normal’ in POV scenarios further credit should be given. Each victim has her own identity and careful casting sees each playing different but essential persona’s in Frank’s morbid role-play which ultimately fits together like pieces from a puzzle.
Overall, to say we enjoyed ‘Maniac’ would be an understatement. Franks killing spree felt fresh, visceral and very much in the vein of the original. There is a perfect mixture of sleaze (there is a lot of nudity in this movie), violence and some top notch acting/scripting with no scene wasted. The subject material might be too much for some to stomach, but for the rest of us this is not only one of the best remakes ever but a vital facelift for the slasher genre.