Maniac Blu-ray Review
Written by Joel Harley
Blu-ray released by Metrodome Distribution
Directed by Franck Khalfoun
Written by Alexandre Aja, Gregory Levasseur and Joe Spinell (original screenplay)
2012, Region B2, 89 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
Blu-ray released on 1st July 2013
Nora Arnezeder as Anna
Genevieve Alexandra as Jessica
Elijah Wood as Frank
Liane Balaban as Judy
Jan Broberg as Rita
Aaron Colom as Alley Man
He's not sick, but he's not well. One time Frodo Baggins Elijah Wood plays the titular maniac in this slick remake of William Lustig's infamous Eighties' serial killer thriller. By day, Frank collects and restores antique mannequins – by night, he violently murders innocent women and poaches their scalps for his collection. I suppose he is quite sick, after all.
While it's hard to picture Elijah Wood playing a man called Frank (few people can, Clint Eastwood and Mike Reid aside) he does seem like the sort of person who might collect mannequins. I helped a friend sell some old shop dummies on eBay once (not in a dodgy way) and each and every person who turned up to collect was as dodgy as hell. One man's eBay feedback is another man's sex offender's register. It would not surprise me at all to learn that the Elijah Wood of Maniac collects mannequins. Wood showed a lot of promise in Sin City and was even quite passable as a football thug in Green Street, so I was very open to the prospect of him headlining this remake. Thankfully, he doesn't disappoint, and neither does Franck Kalfoun's remake.
To be fair, though, I barely remember the original Maniac. I've definitely seen it, but remember little but Tom Savini and a profound sense of disappointment. Like his Hills Have Eyes and Piranha remakes, writer and producer Alexandre Aja does a great job of updating a flawed, ageing horror story for a modern audience. Like the best remakes, he takes the bare bones and characters of the original piece, but uses that as a template to do something completely different.
Namely, a terrifying American version of Peep Show. For the uninitiated (shame on you), Peep Show is a long-running (and quite brilliant) British sitcom told through the eyes (and inner monologues) of its lead characters. Maniac does the same thing, except instead of us seeing and listening to David Mitchell struggle with social anxiety and his hippy flatmate, we have Elijah Wood assaulting innocent women and peeling their scalps off. All it's missing is a bit of Harvey Danger singing 'Flagpole Sitta' over the murder sequences.
Even more so than the film upon which it is based, Maniac is reminiscent of the 80s slasher flick White of the Eye. It's nasty, frequently psychedelic and often darkly humorous. Wood does a great job as psycho Frank, while the cute-as-a-button Nora Arnezeder is quite adorable as love interest Anna. It descends into unnecessary slasher movie silliness at the end, but Maniac is otherwise a resounding success. Gruesome, unpleasant and vivid, it's one of the best horror films I've seen this year so far. Not bad at all, for a remake.
Video and Audio:
It's one of the best looking and sounding films I've seen in a very long time. The dizzying camerawork, mad psychedelia and neon buzz all contribute to a very uncomfortable watch – meant, of course, in the very best way. It sounds the part too, although I still think a little of the Peep Show theme tune wouldn't have gone amiss. Tune in next week, when Mark finally gets Jez out of the flat long enough for him to have his way with Dobby's scalp.
Special features include interviews with the cast, director and writer. That's fine, but it's not exactly (the) precious.