Maniac (2013)

ManiacSomeone really should talk to Frank (Elijah Wood); mistreated as a child, he has been left to mismanage his family’s failing business, all while suffering crippling migraines for which he requires heavy medication. Rather than seeking therapy and finding new employment, however, Frank has given into his disturbed desires, fetishising his stock of restored mannequins and scalping unsuspecting victims in a perverted attempt to recreate his absentee mother. When artist Anna (Nora Arnezeder) asks to use Frank’s dummies for a photographic display, it seems that Frank has found his next target.

A remake of William Lustig’s 1980 original, Maniac manages to escape the bad-will and reboot bias that has helped to sink the likes of 2009’s Friday the 13th and 2010’s A Nightmare On Elm Street for three reasons: the original is a relatively little-known slasher film with a small, non-vocal cult following, the remake was not mass-produced by Micheal Bay’s grave-robbing production company Platinum Dunes, and — thanks to director Franck Khalfoun — it’s actually really, violently good.

Having decided that Lustig’s film was simply not horrific enough, the terror somewhat undermined by sympathy felt towards the character of Frank, Khalfoun instead shoots his version exclusively from the protagonist’s point of view, putting the audience directly into his head and in the process dispelling any notion of remorse or sensitivity. The cinematography is incredibly effective (not to mention unsettling) and wonderfully disorientating, the camera both frenzied and unflinching as Khalfoun and his effects artists lay waste to Frank’s unfortunate victims.

Maniac really is astonishingly graphic; even by the original’s notorious and controversial standards. But while the gratuitous gore is sickening enough, it is the sound design which is often the most hard to stomach of all. Whether it’s the murders themselves, or even the simple hum of flies hovering around the clumps of matted hair, Maniac‘s sound department will likely have you covering your ears before you even think of shielding your eyes. There really is no respite — even Frank’s migraines are traumatic, the sheer noise of each episode keeping you on edge even when there is no threat of actual violence.

Although he is rarely visible onscreen — appearing only in reflection, hallucination and dream sequence — ex-Hobbit Elijah Wood still manages to impress in the leading role. With a surprisingly imposing physicality during the various attacks — assuming that those are indeed Wood’s arms and legs — the actor also uses the slightly boyish timbre of his voice to terrifying effect. Whether grooming his victims, taunting them or babbling to himself in private, there is forever an element of threat in his voice, even in the latter portions of the movie where his friendship with Nora Arnezeder’s Anna finally forces him to question his actions.

Although undoubtedly a horror movie, based on a horror movie, the film that Maniac actually calls to mind is Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive. Drawing on similar music cues and showing the same nostalgia for the 1980s, Maniac is a surprisingly stylish and sleek ode to the era. Whereas Drive was doing it just to be cool, however, the stylistic choice makes much more sense here: the thumping synth soundtrack is incredibly atmospheric and exacting, while the colours are sleazy and squalid, adding once again to the almost unbearable tension first produced and then maintained by the filmmakers.

More than just a solid remake,then, Maniac is also a terrific film in its own right. While Frank might lack the iconography of Freddy, Jason or Michael Myers, Khalfoun has shown that he’s still a memorable movie monster, and one that is every bit as worthy of revisitation.



About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

2 Responses to Maniac (2013)

  1. Pingback: April 2013 – You’re all going to die tonight | popcornaddict

  2. mark says:

    fantastic publish, very informative. I’m wondering why the other specialists of this sector do not notice this. You must continue your writing. I’m confident, you have a great readers’ base already!

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