Written by J. Weagle
Way back in 1980 a little horror slasher film got released called Maniac. It was a low budget movie void of almost any plot, that was mostly an attempt to cash in on the recent hits at the time such as John Carpenter’s Halloween, and the wonderful Black Christmas. Although Maniac didn’t received the same success as those it was trying to emulate, it did gain a cult status with horror geeks for its cheesiness and unapologetic shock value. All these years later and we get a remade version that strings the very basic plot line of the original and somewhat updates it with Elijah Wood (of all people) as the Maniac.
This version is a very hard film to explain, and it is for this reason that it may well be an unnecessary masterpiece. I say unnecessary because the film has no morals, it’s as cold as the main character – yet it ends up being so damn entertaining – for those that fancy following a depraved, mentally insane individual as he stalks his prey in the streets at night.
Basically we see everything from Frank (the maniac) eyes – and I do mean everything. The entire film is shot in a POV (point of view) style reminiscent of another great film Enter the Void. It’s here where the viewer must ask themselves it they want to take this journey or not, because like Frank we are about to see some very violent things. If you enjoy your horror films to be gritty with a sense of realism that doesn’t shy away from the goods, thus while delving into some deeper issues than you’ll find something to appreciate here.
Much like the original, the remake is rather empty on plot especially in the earlier half of the film. We begin with Frank, a man who restores antique mannequins which is a passed down family profession (or so he says). Throughout the movie he meets a young woman named Anna, a beautiful young french artist who is fascinated by Frank’s work, and who wants to use his mannequins for her newest exhibit. The two strike up a bizarre friendship, and obviously Anna is unaware that her “new friend” is actually a psycho killer with mommy issues who stalks and scalps other young women. He has an obsession with hair, as he states in the movie, hair is the one part of us that never really dies. We can see where the plot is going, and as his new obsession with the french artist grows things take a murderous turn for the worse.
I know what you’re thinking, that doesn’t sound so original and why would we want to see a film from the perspective of the killer? I mean doesn’t that just completely go against the conventions of a horror film, and take away all suspense. Well, here it doesn’t. In fact what begins as a gimmick quickly shapes into one of the more interesting horror films to come my way in quite along time. We don’t see Frank do horrible things to women, we experience it with him – and it makes us feel gross, and derange for even watching it, and more than once I had to ask myself what I was even doing watching it. Then those questions faded, and the deeper we sink into Frank’s twisted mind the more intriguing his actions become. Add to everything an incredible (fucking awesome) soundtrack that emotes 80’s synth in the same way that Nicholas Refn’s Drive did, and you get an eerie little movie that is drenched in a hypnotic atmosphere.
Maniac is produced by Alex Aja, a french filmmaker that has worked his way to being called somewhat of a horror icon with his films like High Tension, and The Hills Have Eyes remake. Once again he shows us how to do a remake, how they should not only compare to the original but be better than. It’s a gritty in depth character study of a man who nobody should get to know. I can’t recommend this film enough, but it’s not for everyone and even some hardcore horror fans might be turned off by it. Not because it’s too violent (an it is violent) but because it’s hard to watch onscreen murder when it is presented in such a way. As I said before it may be an unnecessary film that’s hard to stand behind, but hell if it ain’t one of the best unnecessary movies I’ve seen in quite some time.