- 15 March 2013
- Franck Khalfoun
- Alexandre Aja, GrĂ©gory Levasseur
- Elijah Wood, Nora Arnezeder, Sammi Rotibi
- Running Time:
- 93 mins
William Lustigâ€™s sleazier original stars the hulking Joe Spinell as the mumbling scalper with great Tom Savini effects.
Cult horror director William Lustigâ€™s original Maniac caused a serious amount of controversy upon its release in 1980, so itâ€™s appropriate that Franck Khalfounâ€™s remake has proven to be similarly difficult for audiences to stomach. Rather than soften the impact of his protagonistâ€™s crimes with a forgettable reboot, Khalfoun makes the viewer a voyeur by presenting the film almost entirely in first person.
The Lord Of The Ringsâ€™ Elijah Wood plays Frank, a mannequin shop owner whose shy demeanour masks his psychosis. He spends his nights killing and scalping women for his collection but when a beautiful photographer (Nora Arnezeder) shows an interest in him and his work, Frank is torn between his desire to develop a relationship and his murderous impulses.
Khalfounâ€™s version is arguably a more troubling piece of work than its predecessor. By forcing us to see through the eyes of a man who brutally murders women, the issues of voyeurism and misogyny rear their ugly heads before youâ€™ve even settled in. The filmmakers are very aware of what theyâ€™re doing and have no intention of letting you sit comfortably. This perspective doesnâ€™t just allow Khalfoun to depict brutal murders in unflinching detail, it also saddles us with Frankâ€™s view of the world. In a memorable early sequence he panics in a restaurant as his fellow diners all turn to look at him, and weâ€™re shown exactly why he works with mannequins. Maniac is certainly brutal and gory, but itâ€™s the manner in which the violence is presented that really turns the stomach.
This unsavoury but powerful trick is contrasted by the decision to switch out the grimy night-time world of Eighties New York for the neon landscape of Los Angeles, complete with a superb synth-heavy soundtrack that makes the film feel more like Nicolas Winding Refnâ€™s Drive than anything from the gloomy Platinum Dunes remake stable or the winking throwbacks of the Grindhouse movies. In short, itâ€™s hypnotic and beautifully shot as well as revolting. That Khalfoun has managed to deliver a challenging and stylish film is a pleasant surprise given his last genre outing was 2007â€™s routine P2.
Elijah Wood is both a canny piece of stunt-casting (who doesnâ€™t want to see Frodo embrace his inner maniac?) and something of a misdirect. Despite his star billing Wood appears only briefly and mostly in reflective surfaces, which allows for a nice nod to the original filmâ€™s poster, and for the most part heâ€™s more of a narrator than a star. Heâ€™s also a very different maniac to the originalâ€™s Joe Spinell, a twitchy and neurotic recluse rather than a mumbling hulk of a man.
Wood gives a very impressive turn and he makes the role his own even before he cries â€śI told you not to go out tonight!â€ť Arnezeder does well with the rather thankless task of playing the lovely artist who completely fails to notice her new friendâ€™s dark side. The rest of the cast are essentially scalps for Frankâ€™s knife, although America Olivo (Friday The 13th reboot) deserves a mention for her performance as Frankâ€™s tyrannical mother.
The film does start to run out of steam as it builds towards its finale and the impact of a first person stalk-and-chase sequence loses some of its impact by the end. But this fresh and challenging approach to one of the more problematic slasher classics is a welcome example of an update taking a fresh approach and reaping the benefits.
Itâ€™s upsetting and certainly not for everyone but, if youâ€™ve got the stomach for it, Maniac is a challenging and disturbing late night chiller.