Maniac is a remake of a film from 1980 with the same title (read about it at GCDB). I have not yet seen the original so this review is purely on the 2012 version. Going in, I knew absolutely nothing about it other than that it was a horror movie starring Elijah Wood. It’s gotten some pretty terrible reviews and people have strayed away from it, claiming it to be too intense. I really don’t see that as a reason to avoid a horror movie. The whole point of this genre is to be unnerving and shocking, so that seems like a compliment more than anything.
When the movie started I was surprised to learn that it’s presented in the first person point of view. Frank Zito’s (Wood) reflection in the rear view mirror isn’t just a stylistic touch for the poster. You largely only see him in a reflection. There are a few shots where the camera goes to a 3rd person perspective and you still see him, but for the most part it is all his POV so you see the events transpiring through the eyes of the killer. Zito is one incredibly deranged psychopath and the fact that you’re seeing everything he does through his eyes makes everything more intense. Since you’re witnessing it all first person you feel almost like you’re condoning his actions, like you should be doing something to stop him. That combined with the fact that the movie can get really gory is most likely why audiences are turning away. I thought the first person effect was utilized to its full extent because it serves to actually immerse you in the Zito’s psychopathic mind. Strangely enough I watched this movie right after marathoning 3 seasons of Peep Show (a British comedy that is done in first person) so I couldn’t shake the feeling that Mark Corrigan was killing people.
Elijah Wood’s performance as Frank Zito is a difficult and complicated one. Since you largely see him only in reflection, he had to carry the performance mostly with his voice. He does a very good job and is very convincing as a psychopath. The only minor problem I had with his performance is that when he’s yelling the quality seemed to dip a little bit.
This movie can be very creepy and maybe even make some viewers uncomfortable. It risks alienating people but doesn’t pull any punches. It’s very ballsy but I’m glad they didn’t play it safe. Those who do stick with the film will probably enjoy it. The gore can be excessive and even unnecessary at times and the effects are also a mixed bag. For example there is some CGI that doesn’t look so great.
One particularly funny moment is when a woman Frank Zito is on a date with goes to put on some “sexy” music, except she chooses Goodbye Horses AKA the creepy song Buffalo Bill dances to in The Silence of the Lambs. The characters also attend a showing of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari so there are plenty of nice little references for film fans thrown in there.
I enjoyed the story and even though the narrative may not be the strongest it was presented in a very interesting way. Some well timed flashbacks provide enough of a background to fully establish the main character’s motives. Towards the end, the story begins to slip a little bit and the climax seemed a bit sloppy. Things come to a head and result in a bloody fight, car chase and subsequent car crash. It is all done well, but doesn’t feel right for this particular story.
Overall Maniac really surprised me. I thought it was a terrific film. Be warned it is fairly harrowing and somewhat experimental, but that’s not really a bad thing, that’s kind of the whole point of horror movies of this breed. Maniac is a very good film to watch this October leading up to Halloween.
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