Regrettably, I cannot compare this remake to the original film as I have not seen all of the original. The original 1980 Maniac was on Netflix Streaming about a year ago and I never got around to finishing it. I will note that I watched about 20 minutes of the original and had a hard time getting into it; Joe Spinell was just too disgusting for me to look at and it took a lot of effort to make it just 20 minutes. Unfortunately, I never got around to finishing it before it was pulled from Netflix.
This remake of Maniac has been on my radar for awhile. Seeing Elijah Wood associated with the film peeked my interest; I thought he did a great job as a young actor in both The Good Son (1993) and The Ice Storm (1997). I don’t care much for the fantasy Lord of the Rings/Hobbit movies so I don’t remember his performance in those, but generally I enjoy Wood’s acting. In Maniac, however, I was really let down. Wood felt distanced from the role and almost uninterested. That is a problem especially considering the movie is filmed mostly from his point-of-view, in first-person.
The film begins with a great kill scene. We see things through Frank’s point-of-view and follow a young, beautiful woman through the midnight streets of Los Angeles to her apartment. We see Frank cut the power to the hallway, where he sneaks up behind the woman and stabs her under her chin, visibly seeing the blade in her mouth (this was a very cool scene).
He then scalps her. It is a very tense scene but also happens very quickly (who’d have thought it’d take so little effort to effectively scalp someone?). Frank returns home to attach the scalp to a mannequin he keeps at his house. We soon find Frank perusing online dating sites, where he ultimately meets up with sleazy Lucie. Frank tries to resist his urges but Lucie’s aggression is too much and Frank snaps, first strangling and then scalping her.
The following day frank is in his mannequin shop (seriously, who can make a living operating a mannequin-restoration shop?) when he notices a young, beautiful photographer, Anna, taking pictures of his store. Frank and Anna quickly form a friendship, and Frank agrees to help Anna with an upcoming exhibit. As Frank gets closer, he begins to emotionally fall for Anna and soon learns that Anna has a boyfriend. At the gallery showing, Frank is mocked by both Anna’s boyfriend, Jason and Anna’s mentor, Rita. Frank follows Rita home, hogties and murders her.
A few days later Anna calls Frank and confides in him her sadness of Rita’s death. The two meet up shortly after and Frank slips some of the details to Anna, tipping her off that he is the actual killer. After a few scrappy fighting scenes, including one in broad daylight and an unbelievable car wreck that leaves Anna nearly dead, Frank ends up murdering Anna and scalping her too. He returns to his apartment mortally wounded from the car wreck and hallucinates that his mannequins are alive and after him.
Most of my criticism for this movie is just how unbelievable Frank’s character is. He clearly has mommy issues, as well as deep-seated psychological problems (including a severe detachment from society). These issues would have manifested themselves before now and the extremes that Frank goes, and so quickly, just aren’t believable to me (did I mention my father was a psychology professor?).
Overall, I would have enjoyed this more if we learned more about Frank’s character from his childhood to where he is now. I guess I just don’t understand how someone so psychologically broken could be as well-adjusted as he has been thus far in life, when something breaks inside him after his mother’s death and he decides to stalk and scalp young women. The first-person camera does its job early on of letting us experience the mind of a maniac, but it gets tiresome.
Another peeve of mine with this film, (and I guess its because I’ve been on a Dexter kick lately) but Frank is also really conspicuous and blatant in his killings. He’s sloppy and I don’t know how he wasn’t caught early, say shortly after the first scene where he stabs and scalps the chick in her hallway apartment and manages to get home with bloody scalp in tote? I understand most horror movies really aren’t believable, but for the main crux of this film being first-person, allowing us to vicarious experience the urges of an emotionally-battered man, it really is not very conceivable for me.
Cons: POV first person narrative, Elijah’s lackluster acting, unbelievable premise
Pros: creative kills, impressive gore, graphic
Mashup status: Think Peeping Tom (1960) meets Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) featuring the fractured personality of Norman Bates from Psycho (1960).