Even the most ardent horror fan might struggle to find something to enjoy in Franck Khalfoun’s remake of William Lustig’s 1980 slasher classic, Maniac. The film does have several things going for it—the classic, 1970s-electronic score by the French composer Rob, reminiscent of the Dawn of the Dead soundtrack by Dario Argento collaborator Goblin. There’s also the fact that the film is shot entirely from the main character’s POV; you, as the viewer, are forced to identify with the killer—except when the director decides to inexplicably break from that and have the camera omnisciently float above the proceedings. And, of course, there’s the fact that said killer is played by Elijah Wood. It’s hard for some actors to escape their defining roles. The late, great James Gandolfini will forever be known as Tony Soprano. Daniel Radcliffe is doing his best to leave his Harry Potter days behind. And some would argue that Mr. Wood is eternally a hobbit, as the Lord of the Rings trilogy essentially made a star out of him.
Perhaps that’s the reason he decided to take on the role of Frank, a killer whose mommy and sexual problems make Norman Bates look like a well-adjusted young man. Frank lives in a creepy storefront full of mannequins in downtown Los Angeles. By day he dresses them up and imagines that they come to life as his victims, and by night he brutally scalps and murders women. The scalpings are shown in graphic detail, no doubt thanks to the influence of writer/producer/gore-enthusiast Alexandre Aja (High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes). There is no semblance of logic in the story. It’s impossible to believe that any of the tatted-up hipster girls Frank brings out on a date or back to his lair of death would find him in the least bit attractive. When he’s not lurking in his den of dimly lit dummies, he’s running to a restaurant bathroom or out into the street, muttering about how his head is about to explode. Women love that in a man, I guess, at least in the world of Maniac.
This remake is, as remakes tend to be, an amped-up, steroidal version of the original, and its pleasures are far and few between. Maniac is probably destined to be a midnight classic, or maybe not; either way it doesn’t stick with you for long after it’s over. And ultimately, considering the brutal murders, excessive gore and general violence against women, this is probably a good thing.
Director: Franck Khalfoun
Writer: Alexandre Aja, Gregory Levasseur, C.A. Rosenberg
Starring: Elijah Wood, Nora Arnezeder
Release Date: June 21, 2013