Maniac Review

Posted: December 18, 2013 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Maniac-PosterWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

I don’t know if any genre has been exploited by remakes as much as horror films. Four of the major slasher franchises have received remakes and most of Romero’s zombie films have been remade as well. This year alone has given us the likes of Carrie and Evil Dead. Amidst these films, Maniac does stand out slightly. The film is a remake, but of an obscure cult film, not an iconic horror classic. The film also bears the interesting distinction of being shot entirely from the killer’s point of view. These factors made Maniac seem like a project with more ambition than your typical soulless horror remake.

Frank Zito (Elijah Wood) is a young man who runs an antique mannequin shop by himself. He’s also mentally disturbed after years of psychological abuse and a rough relationship with his mother. In the night, Frank stalks young women, murders them, and scalps them. He doesn’t seem to get much enjoyment out of the act however and almost seems pained by what he does. His life is shaken up when he meets a young woman named Anna (Nora Arnezeder), whom he actually has feelings for.

The main thing that interested me in Maniac was the idea of the entire film being through the killer’s perspective. For the most part, the film is consistent with this. There are a few scenes where the camera leaves his little view to simulate an out of body experience, but beyond that everything is behind Frank’s eyes. It’s a gimmick that works and makes for a unique viewing experience. Does it reveal new things that wouldn’t have been possible had the film been shot more conventionally? Not really, but it makes the film more interesting than had it been shot normally. I think the best use of it comes in a stalking/fight scene late into the film.

It’s a good thing the POV decision works as well as it does because outside of that Maniac is pretty empty. Well, that’s not entirely fair. Director Franck Khalfoun crafts some solid scenes, the music is good, there’s some effective imagery, and the two leads give perfectly serviceable performances, but there’s really not much special about the film. It’s a story about a psychotic killer who had a difficult upbringing struggling with genuine feelings for someone. In other words, all elements that other horror films have played with before and in more interesting ways. Even the extensive use of POV shots isn’t entirely original. Countless horror films have placed the camera through the killer’s eyes; they usually contain it to a scene however. Maniac is just taking that to its logical extreme. And while the execution is fine, it isn’t enough to make these tropes feel fresh again.

I really don’t have much to say about Maniac. It’s a well-made film with a fairly unique gimmick at the center of it all, but it’s also derivative and empty. For those who like these kind of horror films, this will likely be highly satisfying. For those who don’t, Maniac will be just as unpleasant and likable as the other horror films you don’t like. I see myself as being in the middle of these two extremes and that’s about where I fall on the film.

C

Comments
  1. CMrok93 says:

    Good review Dan. The POV-gimmick may have offered us some grisly and bloody murders, but felt more like a crutch the movie relied on to get itself past the fact that all it was was just another regular, average and ordinary slasher-pic, except with Frodo behind the knife.

  2. ianthecool says:

    Obscure films are the ones that should be remade to be sure. Unfortunately, they don’t have name recognition, which creates this remake conundrum. The movies that should be remade wont because they are too obscure. The ones that shouldn’t are because they have built in publicity.

    Then again, this one would have passed me by without notice if not for your post, so perhaps obscure movies are being remade, we just don’t realize?

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