Synopsis: The owner of a mannequin shop develops a dangerous obsession with a young artist.
If you’ve never seen the 1980 William Lustig film Maniac, you’re missing out on some of Tom Savini’s best early 80’s effects work.
But I’m not here to talk about that Maniac, I’m here to talk about the Franck Khalfoun directed, Alexander Aja/Gregory Levasseur penned remake.
First and foremost I’m an fan of Alexander Aja and Gregory Levasseur, and have been since seeing High Tension in 2004. I loved The Hills Have Eyes remake, and I loved Piranha 3D more than I probably should have, however when I first heard that Maniac was up to be remade with Aja and Levasseur writing I was giddy. Don’t get me wrong, I like the original Maniac, but there are some serious problems with it on a story level that I’m willing to forgive because the rest of the movie is good.
This Maniac is the kind of remake I love to see, one that takes into account all the good things about the original, while patching up and fixing the problems as well as adding its own new twists and spins on the subject.
The story is very similar to the original, Frank (Elijah Wood) is a man with severe mental problems with a decidedly homicidal bent, but when the right woman comes into his life, it seems like everything could change for the better……
The first thing that stands out about Maniac is that it’s shot all from Frank’s perspective, and while this at first can be a bit jarring and almost annoying, it actually ends up working in the films favor as we are forced, as the audience, to see the world as Frank sees it, to experience things through his eyes and his twisted mind. There are a few scenes where the camera does give us a more traditional third person perspective, but they are very few and far between, and when they happen, I felt as if they were meant to be a sort of out of body experience for Frank.
Elijah Wood’s performance is perfection, as he’s just handsome enough to be non-threating, but it’s those same good looks that hide the…Maniac within, and while we tend to only get glimpses of Wood on screen through mirrors and reflective surfaces, as well as the couple of third person shots, his delivery of lines and the reactions of the actors he’s talking to help to pull every scene together.
Without getting too deep into spoilers of this film, or the original, I will say that I appreciated what Aja and Levasseur did in clarifying Frank’s past, which in turn, leads to some fantastically unsettling flashback sequences and one of the single most disturbing murder sequences in the entire film near the end.
And what an ending! With all due respect to Lustig’s original film, the ending of Maniac (1980) doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense. It’s a fantastic bit of special effects work, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense in the context of the film, and thankfully Aja and Levasseur kept most of that ending, while making things more clear.
Franck Khalfoun deserves just as much credit as Aja and Levasseur do because he directed the hell out of this film, from the opening with the two women coming out of the club and the tiny details of our first victim being harassed by random stranger on the street, to the vicious brutality of the ending, every scene was gorgeous to look at and the visual nod to the original film’s poster in one scene was excellent.
The score by the artist simply listed as Rob is exquisite, a throwback to 80’s synth driven scores that still feels contemporary and has been in heavy rotation for months even before I had a chance to see the film. Easily one of the best modern horror film scores of the past ten years.
Maniac is everything I hoped it would be and more, delivering a genuinely uncomfortable, beautiful remake that improves upon the original.
Elijah Wood’s performance
Aja and Levasseur’s script