Maniac (2012)

One from the rewatch pile…

Maniac (2012)

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.

Score: ****

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.

Score: *****

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

Score: **

WISIA: Whilst it is a good movie, I can’t see me watching it again.

The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

One from the re watch pile…

The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

Film: The early 2000s were a wonderful time when every second movie that was released was a remake, not like now when every movie is a Disney film, and every forum on the Internet was rife with old school horror lovers screaming blue murder that a remake would wreck ‘their’ film.

Here’s a few pointers:

-a remake doesn’t wreck an original film…in actual fact it does nothing to it other than bring attention to it.

it’s not ‘your’ film, and the owners of the rights can do whatever they feel like to it. You are just playing in their backyard.

Anyway, this remake was directed by French director Alexandre Aja, whose previous film was the unusual, and violent psychological film Haute Tension aka High Tension which many people were stunned by both for its extreme gore, and is use of trickery, and blatant lies to tell its tale. The script, whilst based on Wes Craven’s original film, is written by Gregory Levasseur, who also worked on Haute Tension and Aja’s next film, Mirrors.

The Hills Have Eyes remake tells of a family who are travelling across the New Mexico desert on holiday. When the father, Big Bob (Ted Levine) is told of a short cut not on the map by a gas station attendant of dubious moral, he proves he must have never seen a horror movie a decides to take it.

Part of the way across this ‘short cut’ the family are in a accident staged by a bunch of mutants who live in the mines in the hills, and in the governmental built town made to see how nuclear weapons would effect suburbs. These mutants are the results of the fallout subjected their ancestors.

Quickly, the family are subjected to murder, rape and cannibalism before one of them steps up his game and decides to set things straight, and carves a path of blood and guts across the desert.

Aja proves that his Haute Tension film was not a fluke, and this, his first American film, sits high on my list of amazing remakes, along with John Carpenter’s The Thing and Chuck Russell’s The Blob. Aja has taken Craven’s film and really increased the levels of every threat the family encounter.

A special shout-out has to go to the effects, which to me are a seamless combination of CGI and practical effects, and the soundtrack, not just the incidental music but also the bizarre choices of songs for the opening and closing credits, particularly the opening which is combined with 1950s styled happy-housemaker adverts and deformities of the children of people who were exposed to Agent Orange in Viet Nam.

There is a lot to love about this film and dare I say it, I like it far more than the original.

Score: ****

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian, region B Bluray release of the film, which is presentin a crystal clear 2.35:1 image and a matching Dolby DTS-HD 5.1 audio track.

Score: *****

Extras: There is a few extras on here which are a pain to access as the disc has no menu screen, so whilst the film is playing you have to use your ‘Pop-up Menu’ button to access them.

There are two commentaries, one by Aja, writer Levassuer and Producer Marianne Maddalena and another by Producers Peter Locke and horror legend Wes Craven. Either individually or watched one after the other they offer a whole pile of interesting anecdotes of the making of the film.

There are 7 Production diaries which can be watched individually or as a job lot. They are crappy handicap filmed behind the scenes stuff with no offer of an explanation throughout and each one only goes for about two minutes. Ultimately worthless.

We also have trailers for this film, From Hell and X-men: The Last Stand.

Score: ***

WISIA: I really dig it so, yeah: 100%