Mike’s Review: Maniac (2012)

🔪🔪🔪🔪 out of 🔪🔪🔪🔪🔪
Directed by Franck Khalfoun.

Just when you thought it was safe to go to the movies, or watch a horror film, or be a woman, along comes a nasty bit of business courtesy of Frodo Baggins. 

Clearly Elijiah Wood has a deep and fascinating history with horror. He’s touched on some amazing bits of terror over the years, including Come to Daddy, The Faculty, and The Last Witch Hunter.  He’s even attached to the upcoming reboot of The Toxic Avenger!  Whether it’s his super cool horror adjacent podcast, Visitations, or his horror production company, SpectreVision, Elijah definitely has a taste for the darker side of life. 

Who knew he could take one of the more vile and troublesome films ever made and make it even more vile and troublesome. But he did. 

If you haven’t seen the hyper-raw 1980 version of Maniac directed by William Lustig, fear not, the 2012 version is largely the same film — it’s just fantastically more shocking and gory. 

ATMOSfx! Woo!
Frodo, what have you done!?!

It’s entirely unclear why William Lustig’s serial killer party, showing New York City in absolute decline, needed to be repacked and shipped out West, but it’s certainly an interesting choice. In the Maniac remake Frank Zito (Elijiah Wood) is now stationed in LA and he’s slightly less gross than his greasy-grimy predecessor, Joe Spinell

The other fascinating things that director Franck Khalfoun bleeds out on the scene include: a) 70+ percent of the film is shot in first-person from the creepy perspective of Frank Zito, b) the ugly back-story with his Frank’s mother and potentially the foundation of Frank’s serial killer-having ways are more fully explained, c) the very real looking scalpings courtesy of special effects great Greg Nicotero, and d) a wonderful production team involving the original Maniac director William Lustig and Alexandre Aja

For the uninitiated, Frank is a serial killer who’s hell-bent on killing lovely women, scalping them, and returning their scalps (unclear what happens to the bodies) to his vintage mannequin factory. Scalps are applied to the mannequins and he communes with his dead mother and his hallucinates freaky relationships with his would be paramours. 

His treatment of women is exceptionally brutal and likely rivals the atrocities depicted in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Seriously, these are some very rough images that you’ve not likely seen, nor can you ever unsee them. 

Maniac is well conceived, well written, and well directed.  That said, Elijiah Wood feels a little misplaced. Sure he can stare off in to space like a distracted serial killer would, but his slight 5’6” frame and he twee demeanor just don’t shout “this guy’s a SERIAL KILLER!” Much in the same way that he was miscast as a soccer hooligan in 2005’s Green Street Hooligans, he just doesn’t invoke the same disgusting response of the original pockmarked Frank Zito, Joe Spinell. 

Maniac is not to be trifled with. It is not to be taken lightly. It’s a deep dive in to the deep end of a very dark and uninviting swimming pool. Be forewarned, Maniac is graduate-level horror and if you’re still goofing around with the likes of Scream and the Final Destination series, you may want to steer clear of this pile of guts.

Maniac claims to be unrated, but we’re going with a solid NC-17. Maniac is streaming everywhere.

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