One from the rewatch pile…
Film: Maniac is a loose remake of Bill Lustig’s classic 1980 horror film of the same name starring Joe Spinell and Caroline Monroe. He it’s retooled by Alexander Aja (who also remade The Hills Have Eyes and Piranha 3D) and Gregory Levasseur and directed by P2’s Franck Khalfoun, the updated story goes like this:
Mannequin restorer Frank (Sin City’s Elijah Wood) has a few problems: no friends, migraines, Oedipus Complex and a penchant for murdering and scalping women, and then using their removed hair as wigs for his shop dummies.
His life may be changing though as he has met a young photographer Anna (Safe House’s Nora Arnezeder), with whom he strikes up a friendship, but will his deadly urges allow this friendship to flourish?
The most remarkable aspect of this film is the POV aspect in which it is shot. This isn’t Blair Witch Project, shaky-cam stuff either; this is genuine, internet-porn styled POV that takes place from the standpoint of the antagonist, rather than the stock standard ‘found footage’ style which requires the addition of a hamfistedly inserted video camera. In this film, you are IN the murderers head, and seeing from his eyes, not as a witness, but as the perpetrator. In seeing his life through his eyes, we also see his mental point of view, and the way his unhinged brain interprets events. This device adds a touch of realism to the film, and the style is like the third person writing seen in Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho which tells you everything that YOU DO. It was so effective that New Zealand’s censors banned the film saying a wider release would be ‘injurious to the public good’.
Now THAT’S the type of notoriety horror movie makers used to enjoy!
The soundtrack has some impressive subtleties to it as well. First I have to praise the synth score that occasionally kicks in which felt like a nice nod to the original. The real treat comes from Wood’s performance combined with the sound engineers. Listen closely when he is arguing with himself and you’ll hear an ‘extra’ voice coming trough the speakers. The combination of this and Wood’s POV performance makes for a disturbing yet sympathetic lead man.
Speaking of the 80s, there are a few other nice nods to the original: a description of an online sleeve bag that may fit Joe Spinell’s appearance may have been a little offensive, but in one scene the killer sees a reflection of himself in a car door, and it emulates the original ‘erection’ poster nicely.
Wood’s performance as Frank is amazing too. When you consider he is really only seen in reflections or in flashbacks or on occasion to show time lapse or to see the release he gets from Murder, he has a genuine presence in this film. Even when he isn’t seen, he is generally heard, as there is a constant sound of his breathing which weighs heavily in every scene. It seems he was made for this role as his sudden acts of violence, which won’t disappoint gore fans, are completely offset by his almost child-like looks and mannerisms.
When this came out I thought this was an effective thriller that was given a greater identity with its unusual way of telling the story.
Format: Its impossible to fault the picture and sound quality of this bluray. The 2.35:1 image is crystal clear and the lossless 5.1 DTS-HD audio is immersive a necessary for the effectiveness of the film.
Extras: The disc starts with trailers for Lovely Molly, Come Out and Play and Room 237. Extras offered include a series of interviews with Kalfoun, Aja, Woods and Arnedezer which reveal some of the ideas behind the remaking of the 80s classic.
Disappointingly there is no documentary revealing the way the film was made, which I would have liked to have seen
WISIA: Whilst it is a good movie, I can’t see me watching it again.