Directed by Franck Khalfoun (P2, I Lived, Amityville: The Awakening) and shot almost entirely through a first-person perspective, 2012’s ‘Maniac’ is a unique and extremely innovative slasher that has been enormously overlooked by fans of modern horror. As while the film does admittedly have its issues, the impressive visuals and timid yet creepy performance from Elijah Wood surely make-up for most of them, quickly resulting in a discomforting dive into the sadistic mind of a serial killer.
Plot Summary: After working his day job at a mannequin restoration store, the mentally ill and isolated: ‘Frank’ takes to the dark streets of Los Angeles as a serial killer with a fetish for female scalps. But when a young artist asks him for help with her new exhibition, ‘Frank’s obsessions begin to consume him…
Although it takes a different approach to its story, ‘Maniac’ is actually a remake of the classic 1980 slasher of the same name. However, this is one of the rare occasions where I believe that the remake is possibly an improvement over the original film, as while the ’80s flick does feature plenty of over-the-top gore, the film never manages to elevate itself from being just a fairly straight-forward slasher, and although it’s maybe not always successful, the remake does attempt to further develop ‘Frank’ as a character as well as exploring themes of mental health, parental ignorance and identity loss throughout its runtime.
Elijah Wood, best known for his role as ‘Frodo’ in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ series, portrays the serial killer protagonist: ‘Frank’ as awkward and almost quite dry at points, making ‘Frank’ feel incredibly deranged when he interacts with other characters. Most notably, the artist and photographer: ‘Anna’ portrayed by Nora Arnezeder, who is a clear contrast to ‘Frank’ in the way she portrays her simplistic yet likeable and innocent character, completely unaware of: ‘Frank’s dark deeds as she grows closer and closer to him. The performances are slightly dragged down by writing throughout the film, however, as whilst the dialogue is decent for the most part, the film does still have the odd unusual line.
As previously mentioned, the remake of: ‘Maniac’ is also shot nearly entirely through P.O.V. shots, and its this cinematography by Maxime Alexandre that really makes the film stand-out from many other slashers. As whilst watching the film, you can’t help but feel the tension as ‘Frank’ goes on dates or has conversations with women who we know will soon meet a gruesome fate, as the audience is fully aware of his sinister intentions, the film almost makes you feel hostage to ‘Frank’s mind. That being said, the film does sometimes take you out of the experience when it leaves the P.O.V. format for a few seconds. While I understand why the film does this (as it’s usually at crucial points within the narrative). I personally feel keeping the audience restricted to looking through ‘Frank’s eyes would’ve made the film more compelling, especially since we don’t even see ‘Frank’s face until twelve minutes into the film.
Serving as a great throwback to the classic ’80s film its based on in addition to adding too many of the film’s best moments. The original score by Robin Coudert or ‘Rob’ as he usually goes by, is a synth soundtrack. Utilising electronic waves, this underrated score is certainly a high-point of the film, with my two favourite tracks: ‘Doll’ and ‘Haunted’ both being incredibly memorable in their own right, almost feeling as if they were ripped straight from any of the iconic horrors of the 1980s.
Extremely violent and disturbing throughout, ‘Maniac’ truly pulls no punches when delving into the mind of its serial killer, meaning many viewers may be put off by the film’s extremely gory deaths and unnerving murder scenes. As ‘Frank’ disposes of his victims with little remorse, as dark memories of his mother during childhood fuel his violent actions. This is also where many of the film’s more bizarre moments come into play, as although it may surprise some viewers, ‘Maniac’ is partly an art-house film as well as a slasher, as the film’s themes as well as ‘Frank’s broken mind is usually displayed visually throughout the film in a variety of ways. This unfortunately, does lead onto the film’s weakest aspect however, as during many of these anomalous scenes, the film’s editing can become quite erratic, sometimes even placing cuts mid-conversation.
In conclusion, I deeply enjoy ‘Maniac,’ as even through the film is quite problematic in areas, mostly in regard to its unusual editing choices and occasionally lines of strange dialogue. ‘Maniac’s memorable original score, intense violence and of course, captivating cinematography through its use of P.O.V. The film stands as definitely one of the better horror remakes in recent memory. And although I probably wouldn’t recommend ‘Maniac’ to everyone, if you’re preferred realm of the horror genre is gory slashers, then this inventive flick is certainly not one to miss. Final Rating: high 7/10.