A remake of the 1980 film, Maniac follows the story of a serial killer whose psyche was traumatized by an abusive mother (some shades of Norman Bates here only this guy is obsessed with mannequins and decorating them with the scalps of his victims). Elijah Wood stars as the twisted lead hellbent on trying to quell the voices in his head alongside the intense pain he suffers as a result of migraines. One victim after another suffers at his hands until he finds Anna, who he starts to have a genuine connection with, at least until things start to unravel again for him when she starts to learn of his true nature…
I find remakes to be a bit hit-and-miss but this one’s not bad. I remember seeing the original back in the 80s; both films have their merits. The original (especially compared to today’s production values) has a very low budget hack and slash feel to it. This update feels much more polished but is equally as gory and visually intense. Still, you gotta give props to the 80s version too for the efforts of effects master Tom Savini who worked on the original. The effects in the remake are really top notch, the bed scene towards the end is especially riveting and disturbing as the killer is confronted by his victims during a psychotic break.
One of the things I liked about the movie is how it’s told largely from the POV (point of view) of the killer himself. This viewpoint creates an interesting dynamic where instead of feeling like the victim (or a 3rd party watching from the outside), you’re in the driver’s seat for most of the ride. It conveys a sense of madness and power all at once.
Wood does a great job as the killer (no traces of Frodo in here) as he descends further into his character’s insanity. The rest of the actors are all solid as well. The lineup includes Nora Arnezeder, America Olivio, Genevieve Alexandra and Liane Balaban; Frank Khalfoun directs.
Don’t expect a happy, fluffy bunny kind of ending in this one folks. I would definitely recommend adding Maniac to the list of horror films you’re watching during the Halloween season!
reviewed by Sean McKnight