Maniac Review

Movie: Maniac
By: Orlok
Date: April 24, 2013

Look who's stalking

William Lustig's "Maniac" has a devoted cult following with his nasty, gritty portrayal of a killer prowling the streets of New York. So it was no surprise that a lot of fans of the original film were holding back when they learned there would be a remake with Elijah Wood as the maniac in the title. Director Franck Khalfoun took up the challenge and created a little horror gem.

Some of you might have seen the first couple of minutes of the film that were officially released. This does set the tone for the whole movie: it is mostly viewed first-person, through the eyes of Frank (Elijah Wood).
Frank had a troubled childhood and this still affects his ability towards women in general. He has this job restoring mannequins and he loves to dress those mannequins up with some trophies, especially scalps of the women he killed. When Frank meets the artist Anna (Nora Arnezeder) he decides to lend some of his mannequins to Anna for her exhibition and a strange friendship between the two develops. Little does Anna know that her new friend is stalking the streets at night scalping women.


View to a kill

Khalfoun's choice for filming almost the entire film in a first-person perspective definitely pays off because it traps you in the troubled mind of Frank, seeing what he sees. It gives a bit of a look of what's going on inside his head. This also makes the audience a participator in the stalking and killing. With some smart filming and tricks we do see things third-person and in a few scenes the camera steps back and gives you a bit overview.
The film is set in Los Angeles, so that's a little change in setting compared with the original but the back alleys and streets still have that same feel of grim sleaziness. Although it is set in the present and there's more neon, the truly great synth soundtrack by Rob catapults you back again in the 80's.



If you're going to compare the 2012 version with the 1980's version then I have to say the feel is a little less gritty. Partially because of the setting, warping your mind back to the 80's you have this feeling of more hustlers in the streets, sex cinemas are thriving and on a date you park your car on a dock side. That kind of 'nostalgia' isn't here in the film since it's set in the present and most of the aforementioned isn't there anymore. Next to that: the original maniac Joe Spinell also was perfectly cast as some sort of loner who doesn't care much for his looks and because of his trauma he doesn't care for himself and anything else.
In this 2012 rendition Elijah is much more of a clean cut person who does care about himself but still that even that doesn't help him mingle in. In short: Elijah is less of a typical looking killer than you're normally used to in most serial killer films. So casting him was a daring choice, also because he's not really the muscular, menacing guy but rather the good looking shy guy, and it ads something a bit more uniqueness to this film instead of taking the well known path of sloppy losers that will eventually pick up the knife.


No filler, all killer

While this film might not be as gory as some might think it will be it does have some brutal scenes. It may be less focused on crowd pleasing kills but then again it does feel more realistic due the viewpoint of the maniac. For the seasoned horror fan there are quite some references to other horror movies that I won't spoil.
Taken all things into consideration I think this is a really well done remake: not just copying the original but writers Alexandre Aja and Grégory Levasseur lend the main 'story' and used a more contemporary setting and believable characters. Also Khalfoun managed to make this film his own. Through the choice of perspective, the natural, subtle camera movements, soundtrack and atmosphere sets this movie apart from all the other horror remakes of late. It manages to hold up on its own. In a world with loveless remakes, you feel the guys behind this "Maniac" put a lot of love and effort in their film and for me this one is a little, modern horror gem.







Franck Khalfoun


France / USA




Elijah Wood, Nora Arnezeder and America Olivo