Starring: Elijah Wood, Nora Arnezeder, Genevieve Alexandra
You may like this if you liked: Maniac (William Lustig, 1980), Mr. Brooks (Bruce A. Evans, 2007), Peeping Tom (Michael Powell, 1960)
Frank (Wood) is the socially awkward owner of a mannequin shop. He beautifully restores mannequins with passion and skill, oh and at night he is a serial killer stalking the streets for women. Once he has killed his victims he scalps them, keeping their hair and placing it on one of his mannequins. One morning a French art student (Arnezeder) takes an interest into his antique mannequins, wanting to use them for an exhibition. The two of them strike a bond and a seemingly mutual interest which only serves to increase Frank’s deadly obsessions.
So here we have yet another horror remake, sorry, I mean ‘reimagining’. I have not seen the original but from seeing interviews with the director he came out with the usual spiel about keeping the spirit of the original but adding his own vision to it blah, blah, blah…
Well I have definitely seen much, much worse and Maniac is an effectively entertaining, gory and more than a little psychologically messed up film. What is a little different is that the entire film is shot from Frank’s point of view. Though this provides a different and very effective element it is nowhere near as mind-blowing as the director seems to genuinely believe it is.
The sleazy synth soundtrack, desolate Los Angeles setting and Wood’s blue eyed stare all prove very effective in what is an entertaining, trashy 89 minutes. Due to the POV nature all Wood has to do is provide a voice over and occasionally look into the mirror. Though he may lack genuine sinister substance, the blue eyed stare is very effective just like in Sin City.
Attempts at getting into Frank’s psyche hit and miss, sometimes providing an annoying distraction, but the final scene is disturbingly effective. Though of course Maniac never intends to be a serious attempt at understanding the mind and obsessions of a serial killer and keeps things suitably trashy and nasty. Oh and of course there is gore, quite a lot of it, but as it is all shown from Frank’s POV this is very visually effective but never genuinely sinister or scary.
Maniac is a trashy, sleazy, immensely enjoyable gore fest. More gory fun than genuinely scary, but effective visuals, music and setting provide an extremely watchable but overall forgettable experience.