Maniac (2012) (directed by Franck Kahlfoun)
So why didn’t I see it in the theater? Well, quite frankly, I didn’t have any other choice. It had been on my radar forever but never came to Austin. Hell, I even bought the soundtrack to kill the time before it was finally released.
So why did I buy the DVD? I’d heard nothing but good things. Elijah Wood rarely goes dark but I remembered his turn as Kevin in Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s Sin City which was nice and creepy. Plus, as you may well know, I’m a goon for horror. This one was a no-brainer.
So was it worth it? Definitely. As mentioned earlier, I had bought the soundtrack after hearing rave reviews about it. It was like the bastard love child of Tangerine Dream and Goblin and is easily my favorite score of the year. It painted a picture of what I would eventually see in the film. That the Blu-ray was released during October played well into my month-long horror movie marathon and I was excited to finally sit down to watch it. To say it was worth the wait would be an understatement.
So what’s it about? A remake of the classic 80’s grindhouse slasher starring Joe Spinell, this film changes coasts and offers a unique and disorienting first person perspective to deliver a cracker jack horror flick that dares you to sympathize with its sociopath ‘protagonist’. Elijah Wood steps into the role of Frank Zito, the proprietor of a third-generation family store that restores antique mannequins. At night, he finds himself on the streets of Los Angeles stalking those unfortunate women who’ve caught his eye. We see him trying desperately to make a human connection but he is haunted by the ghost of his mother, a neglectful woman who was more concerned with her own lascivious desires than the well-being of her child. His best efforts are doomed to failure and would-be paramours fall like dominoes to the madness that eats his beyond damaged soul. A glimmer of hope presents itself in the form of Jessica, a photographer, who happens upon his store and sees a beauty in Frank’s work. She’s wants to use some his mannequins in a photo exhibit she’s putting on. The two strike up an odd friendship. But Frank wants so much more. And Jessica’s inability to see the monster that lies beneath the artist she admires might doom her.
So what’s my grade? A very solid and well-earned A. Elijah Wood is strong in a role in which he is very rarely actually seen. All of the action is shot from a first-person perspective. The viewer is quite literally experiencing the movie through the eyes of a crazed killer. When we do see him, it’s most often in mirrors, a clever effect that never betrays the conceit. We see his sunken eyes, his desperate hope, and his unhinged fury. Occasionally, the camera pulls away from Frank’s perspective and shows him in action. This most often happens when he is extremely happy or extremely enraged. It’s used sparingly and to great effect. Genevieve Alexandra is Jessica. She is alluring and a bit coquettish and ably embodies the type of woman who could set a man back on the right path or knock him hopelessly off course. Their roles are the centerpieces of a great film. Throw in that wonderful perfect music by French composer Rob and you’re in horror geek nirvana.
Maniac is available on Blu-ray, DVD and on Netflix Instant.