Maniac (2013) Review
Writers: Alexandre Aja, Gregory Levasseur, C.A. Rosenborg, Joe Spinell (Original)
Certificate: 18 Running Time: 1hr 29 Mins
Cast: Elijah Wood, America Olivo, Nora Arnezeder
Producer: Alexandre Aja
Plot: Frank is a mannequin store owner by day, a deranged serial killer by night. When he meets a potential love interest with a shared passion, a conflict arises in the mind of a maniac.
Maniac is a remake of William Lustig’s cult slasher from 1981. The original was infamously banned and refused classification for its graphic depiction of a crazed serial killer scalping his victims. A cut version of the film was eventually released in 2002. As a result, Maniac has always been categorised as a ‘video nasty’, a disturbing misogynistic gore fest in which innocent girls are butchered for the pleasure of an educated audience. Maniac sits alongside the likes of ‘I spit on your Grave’ and ‘Straw Dogs’ as taboo, films we know exist but would rather not speak about. Commercially speaking, who in their right mind would attempt to remake this?
Maniac is a rare breed of horror and a film which will stay with me for some time. We witness life through the eyes of a killer. This innovation alone sets this film apart and is the reason I would highly recommend it to horror enthusiasts. The first person action serves to give Frank (Elijah Wood) depth and makes for an incredibly gripping yet uncomfortable 90 minutes inside the mind of a maniac.
Stylishly shot with a pulsating, almost psychedelic-noirish score (reminiscent of Drive) Maniac is not for the faint of heart. The stalking and murder sequences make more painful viewing, at times you are made to feel like a prisoner with no escape but to observe depravity in its rawest, most uncut form. Khalfoun has created an atmospheric character study of an unloved, disturbed soul indefinitely scarred by neglect from his lustful mother. Are we right to feel compassion for one who commits atrocities of mutilation and murder? Maniac quite graphically raises this moral dilemma.
French artist Anna’s introduction adds much needed warmth to proceedings. As she becomes the idol of Frank’s obsession, I couldn’t help but feel she may serve to be his saviour. The ending of the film is harrowing, cold and for me is Maniac’s only fundamental flaw. Elijah Wood is excellent despite limited screen time, his nimble frame and feeble appearance are uncanny and serve to heighten the sense of shock over his actions. It’s long been known that maniacs, delinquents and those who afflict society with horror have been traumatised by events in their childhood- Frank is no different.
Its graphic content will surely see this snubbed by a mainstream audience but there is no question Maniac will instantly become a 21st century cult classic. Far more refined and art-house than the original, Khalfoun’s gamble of shooting in the first person is a masterstroke.