Full disclosure, I haven’t seen the original Maniac. I know, I know, what was I thinking? I typically watch the originals before I dive into a remake, but I just threw caution to the wind and didn’t this time. Maniac, released in 2012 and written by Alexandre Aja, is an indie horror remake of a 1980 gem about serial killer Frank (masterfully played by Elijah Wood.) Frank has extreme mommy issues and spends about half of the film suffering from all sorts of psychotic episodes and the other half stalking, killing and scalping women. Oh and he has a creepy obsession with mannequins. Things start (start?) to fall apart when Frank befriends a photographer, Anna, and their friendship bleeds (pun intended) into other aspects of his life.
As Maniac is an independent horror, there are no crazy bells and whistles or special effects. Frank’s character is fleshed out very thoroughly over the course of the film and it truly is about him and his… passion. Elijah Wood is refreshing and convincing as Frank, a welcome change in my opinion from Frodo. The film is beautifully shot from only Frank’s perspective, as if he were holding the camera the entire time. More than ten minutes pass at the beginning of the movie before you even see Frank. When you do see him throughout, it’s in mirrors or reflections or memories. This was pretty genius, I thought, because it really put you in Frank’s mind and forced you to see the world and his actions from his perspective.
Maniac’s story is fairly simple and it boasts a pretty epic ending full of emotions. The main issue with this movie is it’s one of the goriest I’ve ever seen. It is by no means for the faint of heart. I watched it early in the morning and couldn’t eat breakfast afterward. A lot of reviews knock the movie for being excessively gory, but I disagree. Maniac is disgusting and there is a lot of blood, but all of it is justifiable. This isn’t some big-budget horror with blood and guts flying across the screen every minute. Maniac is tough to sit through, walking an incredibly fine line between uncomfortable and just revolting, but I believe it does it all well and with style.
It may not be the most original story, but Maniac is a compelling gore-fest told through the eyes of its killer. There are a couple of solid death sequences and a great soundtrack, all of which you’ll witness if you can just sit through it. Other serial killers on the island should be wary - Frank may be timid and a certifiable nutcase, but he’s pretty good at what he does.
If you liked Maniac, you might also like The Silence of the Lambs, The Shining and Psycho.