Maniac (2013)

You’d be a bit of a nut too, if you were around mannequins every single day.

A creep-o named Frank Zito (Elijah Wood) obviously has a bit of problems, most of which stem from the fact that his mom banged/sucked/snorted anything that walked, but that’s the least of his mental-issues. The problem he runs into the most is the urge he has to go out, find a pretty, little lady that catches his eye, follow her until they are practically in the dark where nobody can see them, kill them, and chop-off their scalp. Frank does this so he can put the scalps on mannequins that he owns in his store, and pretends that they are like real people, having conversations with them and all. However, Frank’s distorted ways and actions are put to the test when he meets a French hottie (Nora Arnezeder) that he, guess this; actually likes her. Typical of the French to change your comfortable ways-of-living.

In all honesty, I have yet to have seen the 1980 original and despite peeps telling me that it’s rad and worth a look, I highly doubt I’m ever going to get to it. Don’t know why, it’s just the way I roll, especially with the horror genre, that is so hit-or-miss with me that I rarely even bother watching the movies that come out of it. Especially now, since every single horror movie seems like the same one before it and doesn’t offer anything new that I haven’t already seen done to the genre. However, not every horror movie has to be a ground-breaker in order to be considered “good”, right? Not really, but it sure as hell does help.

Where was my invitation that THAT party?
Where was my invitation that THAT party?

Anyway, what this whole rant means is that going into this, my expectations were pretty low but I was optimistic because I do like me some scares, some chills, some thrills, and a whole lotta blood, and knowing that Alexndre Aja was involved with this (serves as co-writer with director Franck Khalfoun), I knew to expect a crap-load of that last element, if not a whole lot more. However, then something happened to me as soon as the flick started. I realized that not only was it a very dark and mysterious type of horror movie, but it was one with a gimmick that I haven’t seen used before and sure as hell never expected to either.

The whole gimmick surrounding this movie is that everything is shown to you through the eyes of Frank himself, as if it was a found-footage movie, but without the conceit of a video-camera that just so happens to catch every bit of the action, without ever turning away or stopping the film. Instead, the camera is Frank’s eyes and mind, and we see all of the weird shit that he sees, does, and thinks about on a regular-basis. For most movies, this would probably serve as a really interesting way of telling your story, especially for a horror movie where the violence is right in-your-face, and you can’t look away, but it doesn’t work here and feels more gimmicky than anything else in the whole entire movie.

Granted, there were moments here that were pretty neat in it’s own sick, sadistic way. The gore is unrelenting and does not stop gushing, even until a wound has been punctured. Aja adds as much blood-flavored corn syrup to the proceedings without making it seem too obvious, for awhile at least, and then the flick hits that mark where it feels like all it has to offer is a new look at a horror movie, if only that means through the eyes of the killer. And like I said before, that idea is cool and can probably work wonders for many films that I think of, but here; it feels like a gimmick, for the sake of being a gimmick, in order to turn your mind and brain away from all of the problems it faces with direction and it’s script. Most of those problems go right to Frank himself who, despite being a crazy muthaeffa’, really isn’t all that interesting.

I’ll give Elijah Wood the benefit of the doubt, the dude’s pretty creepy as it is and easily makes me forget that he ever played Frodo in his life, ever. That’s a hard trick to pull-off and to do it with such creepy intensity, is something else to praise, rather than bring-down from glory. Woods make a good creep, one that I would probably like to see a whole other movie on that wasn’t placed within his head and seen through his eyes. Maybe one that’s just about him coming to terms with all of the bad, evil shite that he does and ends up crying himself to sleep at night because of? Maybe? Maybe not?

I wouldn't still bang, but he would. Good for him, I guess.
I wouldn’t still bang, but he would. Good for him, I guess.

Oh well, makes sense why Hollywood won’t return my calls.

All that said about Wood and his solid performance as Frank, the character of Frank just blows. He’s nothing new or different we haven’t already seen from the slasher-genre, and especially isn’t interesting since most of his problems stem from his mommy, and the fact that she banged just about everything in sight. Once again, it’s something that you always see in horror movies, but it doesn’t mean that I actually want to see a whole new character’s take on it, and watch as he goes through it in such a dumb way, that I almost want to see him scalp himself just for good-measure.

Even the fact that he begins to fall for this French cutie didn’t strike any chords with me, since it always seemed like he wanted to kill her as well. I guess since he doesn’t kill her right away upon first-meeting, automatically means that he’s head-over-heels for her, but I didn’t see it or really feel it. Which is a bad thing too, because isn’t this movie supposed to be taking place through his eyes and his mind? Yeah, something was not mixing well with this flick and it started to leave me bored, despite the actual murder-scenes being filled with just enough red paint and artistic-merit, that I found myself paying attention to it. Then again, like I spoke about before, it all feels like it’s here for no other reason than to distract us from the shitty story we have on our hands here.

Consensus: Despite there being plenty gore, blood, violence and murder to satisfy any horror-hounds mind and soul, Maniac uses it all to get past the fact that it’s seriously lacking in the script-department, as well as it’s gimmick that gets old and repetitive after the first 10 minutes.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

What French gal wouldn't fall for this man?
What French gal wouldn’t fall for this hottie?


  1. Damn I had completely forgotten about this one, and the fact that Elijah Wood is capable of playing something else besides a hobbit. Hahah. Too bad it sounds like this one didn’t turn out better, but I might still pick it up for a rental one night. Just for the disturbing scalping part.

  2. The original is not a great film, but Joe Spinell’s performance as Frank is one of the best in the horror. Also, this POV vision was used in the first FRIDAY THE 13th, back before hockey masks had entered the picture. Check it out for old time’s sake.

  3. This movie intrigued me but it didn’t look amazing. Glad Elijah Wood can still pull off a decent performance, I personally thought he was great in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Terrific review!

  4. I think Wood’s a great actor in those psycho roles (he was one of the best things in Sin City) and I can’t wait to check him out in this one. I think you’re on to something here – Wood is really trying to stretch himself away from Frodo by taking these kooky, weird roles. I think it’s a brave career choice to take.

    Nice review, Dan.

  5. I really liked this, from Wood’s departure from the norm to the point of view and the superb score. I do like horror and really think this is one of the best remakes so far. I’ve seen it a few times and it featured in many Frightfesters top 5.

      • LOL! Yes I do – to tell you the truth I was expecting it to be that good, I hadn’t read anything about it, and at point of time in the Frightfest festival, the films hadn’t been brilliant (they were good but nothing amazing!) So this really took me by surprise and it did lift my spirits for the rest of the festival.

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