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“Invitation to Dance - It’s a Dance. And sometimes they turn the lights off in this ballroom. But we’ll dance anyway, you and I. Even in the Dark. Especially in the Dark. May I have the pleasure?” --- Stephen King ::::::::::: MY CRITERIA FOR DISCUSSION ENCOMPASSES THE HORROR GENRE AND BEYOND, SO I USE THE TERM "NIGHTMARE MOVIES". SPOILERS CAN OCCUR WITH OR WITHOUT WARNING. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.

Maniac (2012)

October 19th 2012 05:38
Maniac (2012) movie poster
William Lustig’s Maniac (1980) holds a special place in the dark hearts of hardened horrorphiles. It’s one of the very few movies that polarises the dedicated True Believers; some champion it, others find it too depressing. It’s a mixed bag; featuring impressive special effects make-up from Tom Savini (and a very young uncredited Rob Bottin) and classic NYC location shooting, but the lead character is a truly ugly piece of work and the tone and atmosphere of the movie is oppressively grim and sleazy. The movie, understandably, has a strong cult following.
Maniac (2012) Elijah Wood
Elijah Wood as Frank
When I first read that the movie was going to be remade with Elijah Wood in the role of Frank, the serial killer, I rolled my eyes. How on earth were the filmmakers going to pull this one off?! As a rule I don’t appreciate remakes of movies that worked the first time around. For all its repulsive nature the original Maniac works, and works well. But there are always exceptions to the rule, and therein lies the remake rub. For every ten remakes that fail miserably, one of them works superbly. Director Franck Kalfoun’s Maniac remake is one of those superb rarities.
Maniac (2012) Nora Arnezeder
Nora Arnezeder as Anna
It’s a French-American co-production, co-scripted and produced by the duo behind High Tension (2003), and the bang-on remakes of The Hills Have Eyes (2006) and Piranha (2010); Alexandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur. That’s a hat-trick for the French lads. Director Kalfoun, also an actor, helmed the uneven parking lot nightmare thriller P2 (2007), but with Maniac he shines. Utilising the ambitious and potentially disastrous visual narrative ploy of shooting (almost) the entire movie from the POV of the killer Kalfhoun delivers a wholly surprising artful horror movie. Yes, Maniac, despite the inherently dark and disturbing subject matter (a fetishist psychopath who scalps women) is a disquietingly beautiful movie.
Maniac (2012) Elijah Wood
I use the term “beautiful” in a most expressionist fashion; this is beauty through the giallo prism, imagery infused with an almost abstract aesthetic; darkness and subjective perspective shot through with a vivid eye for texture, shape, and colour. But more importantly, Maniac is one of a rare breed of modern horror movie: it’s genuinely horrifying and uncompromising. It does not pander to any kind of poetic licence, but it does write its own nightmare poetry.
Maniac (2012) Megan Duffy
Megan Duffy as Lucie86
The re-write Aja and Levasseur have done on Joe Spinell (the actor who played Frank in the original movie) and C. A. Rosenberg’s screenplay is excellent. There are a couple of direct nods to the original movie; one victim, Lucie86 (Megan Duffy) who meets Frank (Elijah Wood) on a the basis of an online chat room meeting informs him that she expected him to be fat with long greasy hair and acne, which is what Frank looks like in the original movie. The other nod to Lustig’s movie is a reflection shot of Frank standing beside a car clutching the scalp of a victim in one hand and his big hunting knife in the other. This image was used for the striking – and very creepy - original movie poster.
Maniac (2012) America Olivio
America Olivio as Frank's mother
Elijah Wood seems like an ill-casting decision to play Frank, and obviously he looks completely different to the version played by the late Joe Spinell, but Wood gives Frank the kind of tortured attractiveness not too dissimilar to Patrick Bateman from American Psycho (2000). Because the movie is shot almost exclusively from Frank’s point-of-view (apart from a few fantasy sequences and one scene where Frank’s vision passes outside his physical self to portray the ghoulish ecstasy of his killing) the audience only ever see Frank when reflected in mirrors or shiny surfaces, or as a young boy in his flashbacks. It is these flashbacks depicting a boy deeply affected by his whoring, irresponsible mother (America Olivio) that form the basis for the adult Frank’s monstrous behaviour.
Maniac (2012) mannequin
As in the original movie Frank befriends a young photographer, Anna (Nora Arnezeder). She shares Frank’s love of mannequins, and as such Frank doesn’t treat her with the same contempt he does of other women. But Anna will be Frank’s undoing.
Maniac (2012) Elijah Wood
Maniac is unlike any American horror of the past few years, far more the Euro vibe of the co-pro, despite it being set in Los Angeles (a curious re-location from the NYC of the original movie). The movie is made more impressive by the 70s-esque synth-driven score by Frenchman Rob, the excellent cinematography from Aja regular Maxime Alexandre, the graphic gore-set pieces (a slick combo of prosthetic and CGI), and the cast, and although I wasn’t completely convinced by Wood’s psycho performance he certainly gave it his all. This is easily one of my favourite horror movies of the year.

Here’s the trailer:


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1 Comments. [ Add A Comment ]

Comment by JohnDoe

October 25th 2012 22:54
Your review go me excited. That trailer threatens with its menacing sin.

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