Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Review: MANIAC (2012)

Directed by Franck Khalfoun
89 minutes

I don’t know why I’m always so surprised by what films Hollywood chooses to remake. It’s like they found a list of everyone’s favorite films of the 80’s and decided that instead of original content they would just remake everything from that list. Most of the films they end up remaking either fail to impress or blow people away. I can honestly say that the Alexandre Aja produced remake of the classic horror film Maniac blew me away and is one of the best and most interesting remakes I have ever seen.

I’m a big fan of the 1980’s Maniac. Super disturbing and awesomely gory, Maniac is a love it or hate it kind of film. Writer and lead actor Joe Spinell is fat, sweaty, ugly, and ultimately believable as a serial killer with weird mommy issues (because all good serial killers have to have mommy issues). When I heard that Elijah Wood was cast in Joe Spinell’s role I really couldn’t believe it. In a nutshell, Maniac centers around Frank Zito, a man who has a really messed up idea of sex and sexuality after seeing his slutty mother bang a bunch of dudes in front of him as a child. He owns and runs a mannequin repair shop by day and is a total creeper by night. He stalks and murders hot women, scalping them, then staples the hair onto mannequins. He then pretends that they’re his girlfriends. Things are going totally awesome for nutball Frank until he meets and falls head over heels for Anna, a young photographer who has the worst taste in men. Frank tries to dial back the crazy in order to win the affection of Anna but in the end Frank loses his shit.

Elijah Wood pulls off the role of Frank wonderfully. He may not be fat or ugly but boy can he be sweaty and creepy. He has this amazingly greasy moustache that just solidifies my belief that he could be a serial killer. I mean that thing is GROSS.

Yuck City 
The most interesting thing about this remake and what sets it apart from other horror remakes is that the entire thing (save for a few moments) is shot “point of view” style. I’m not talking about the camera POV style so prevalent in horror films nowadays (i.e. Paranormal Activity, V/H/S, REC, etc…). You, the viewer, experience the entire movie through the eyes of Frank. Most films try to get you in the minds of the main characters, this one literally puts you in the mind of a serial killer. The effect is exciting and unnerving. At times, I felt dirty and even guilty. I suspect that’s the effect they were looking to achieve. It never seems to feel gimmicky or forced like one would expect and it really only adds to the creepy nature of the film. It’s in a way, it’s kind of like Brainscan only more serious.

Extremely gory and extremely creepy, I was pretty blown away by this remake. Maniac proved to be one of the better horror films of last year (although made in 2012 it never got a wide release until 2013). The only blatant flaw was there wasn’t a shotgun head explosion like in the original. The filmmakers managed to take a cult classic and improve it, making it feel original but at the same time familiar.

Set Yourself Up:
- Don’t watch Mannequin starring Andrew McCarthy and Kim Cattrall OR Mannequin II: On The Move starring Kristy Swanson and William Ragsdale. That will only fuck you up more.
- If you are going with a snack while watching this film, might I suggest bologna. One slice at a time.

-T. Reinert

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