In 1980 actor Joe Spinell (a long time friend of Sylvester Stallone) sprang to media attention in the movie Maniac. The movie gave the actors career a much needed boost, but also secured the actors place in history, as the disturbing story became banned in many countries across the globe. In yet another of a string of remakes of the former so called video-nasties, critics were anxious as to whether Maniac would add up in strength to the original.
Maniac is shown in first person perspective, as a result we see the movies killer Frank (Elijah Wood) only when he catches a glimpse of his reflection, the rest of the story is literally shown through his eyes. Frank is a killer; he kills because of traumatic events that occurred in his childhood (pre the start of the film, but some elements shown in flashback). When he kills, he takes from the scalp of each victim, all of whom are usually female.
Maniac is one of those movies that you cannot really say too much about, its storyline is wafer thin, and there is little or no character development. Many will argue that Maniac is devised to do one thing, and one thing only… to shock! This is a “proper” horror movie in the sense that actions do not need explanation, the story does not need to be analyzed, and this is an assault on the senses of the viewer, nothing more, and nothing less.
Blood runs freely in Maniac, from the opening sequence you get a very clear understanding of how things will go, as killer Frank makes a sharp stabbing motion under a defenseless woman’s jaw, than a small incision around her hairline before forcedly scalping her.
The casting of the usually cuddly Elijah Wood is a masterstroke of genius; the idea that someone who always looks so baby-faced, so pure and innocent can be this vicious, evil killer really is what gives the movie its power.
Maniac reached notoriety when it was shown at the Cannes Film Festival 2012, with many people getting to their feet and walking out fairly early on in the movie. And while as a horror fan this might be what you want to hear, please take into account there is no resting in Maniac, every single scene has either extreme or underlying tension, you never once get the opportunity to live out an ordinary moment, a point where no menace is felt for any of the characters.
Welcome to the return of horror!