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Reviews » Theatrical Reviews » Maniac (2013)
Maniac (2013)
IFC Films // Unrated // June 21, 2013
Review by Jeff Nelson | posted June 20, 2013 | E-mail the Author
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The remake barrel seems bottomless, especially when it comes to horror flicks. I wouldn't be surprised if filmmakers started making remakes of the new remakes. Until then, writers and directors will continue to participate in these re-imaginings as long as audiences continue to pay for them. I always prefer an innovative concept that I haven't seen before, but there are some remakes that work as they should. Even though it isn't a big title, the 1980's Maniac has a dedicated cult following. Despite my love for genre flicks, the original didn't leave much of a positive impression. Outside of the horror community, there aren't very many people who even know that the original exists. The remake aims to please fans and newcomers alike. Does it succeed?

After Frank's (Elijah Wood) mother (America Olivo) dies, he's left as the owner of the family-owned mannequin shop. He develops a psychotic obsession for his art, as he believes that they are breathing human beings. Whenever he leaves the shop, he feels compelled to murder young women and take their scalps to add to his collection. One day, Frank meets a beautiful photographer by the name of Anna (Nora Arnezeder). She befriends him, but Frank soon begins to fall in love with her. Will these feelings for Anna break his killing spree, or will it simply take it to another level?

Writers Alexandre Aja, Grégory Levasseur, and C.A. Rosenberg most certainly wish to deliver gorehounds with a solid amount of carnage. However, they also desire to tell the love story between Frank and Anna. Despite his horrific actions, the screenwriters want audiences to connect with Frank on a certain level. We have all fallen hopelessly in love with somebody before, which is why this is such an important portion of the film. This is a horror flick, but it's also a love story. This is the only level that moviegoers will be able to relate on, but this segment of the picture is surprisingly well-told. Frank acts incredibly different when he's around the photographer. Viewers will genuinely want Anna to survive, since she's such a likable role. She doesn't receive very much character disposition, but it's easy to like her. The motion picture is filmed from Frank's point-of-view, which allows us to see Anna from his perspective. This is the strongest asset of filming in this style. We're able to see the world and the people who inhabit it as he views it.

Maniac's primary target audience can be found within the horror community. While it never manages to be scary, it succeeds in its consistently dreary tone. Some of the kills look so realistic that it feels as if you're watching a snuff film. This will instantly turn some viewers off, but it will attract others. Regardless of the picture's brutality and its contrasting love story, the movie must still have a narrative. This one is pretty shaky throughout. Frank constantly has flashbacks to his dreadfully lonely childhood, which fails due to the execution. This could have been an excellent opportunity to provide more depth for the character, but they ultimately develop multiple moments of unintentional humor. It becomes so over-the-top that it pulls moviegoers from the moviegoing experience. The original film was a B-movie with a cult following, but that tone doesn't work in a motion picture that has a more serious approach.

The feature tries its best to take a more psychological direction than the original did. It truly wants us to explore the mind of a psychotic man who stalks and kills women for a trophy. It's clear that the filmmakers are trying their best to get under our skin, but it doesn't always work. This is primarily executed by combining nudity and sex with knives and scalps. Since every woman (other than Anna) is depicted as an item for sex, the film begs for us to understand the symbolism with the hair and the mannequins. It isn't ever complex, but the film likes to think it is. Maniac hits us over the head with its symbolism, making this one-note fall flat. While the repetition might bother some, others simply want to see as much gore and nudity as possible.

If you go through the cast list, one actor's name will instantly stand out. This name is Elijah Wood, who performs in the role of Frank. When it comes to a horror film, this is one of the better performances you'll see. This is very different from Joe Spinell's representation in the original, as Wood delivers a contrasting character. He emits a more subtle form of the creep factor, which works very well. Since the flick is filmed from his point-of-view, we primarily only see him in reflections. Regardless of his on-screen presence, he drives this movie to be a much better product than it would have been otherwise. Nora Amezeder is quite charming in the role of Anna. She makes us genuinely care about this character, as her friendship with Frank feels authentic. The supporting cast of women is what one would expect from this type of horror flick, as none of them have screen presence.

Director Franck Khalfoun has opted to shoot the motion picture through POV. It may be too dizzying for some, but i found it to be fitting. Since we're seeing the world from Frank's perspective, we should feel as he does. This filmmaking technique is used very well, as each scene is shot well. There are some visual references to the original, which will surely make fans happy. Instead of utilizing large amounts of digital effects, Khalfoun decided to go the practical route. Every scene of violence and carnage looks great. Gorehounds will get exactly what they were looking for, but this will surely be too shocking for the squeamish. The script might not always convey fear, but the atmosphere does. The color palette is gloomy and dreary, which makes it truly feel as if we're in the mind of a killer.

Coming from someone who wasn't too fond of the 1980's original, I found Maniac to deliver what it promises. The majority of moviegoers will probably not welcome its presence, but it will most likely obtain a cult following as its predecessor did. The love story between Frank and Anna is convincing and gorehounds will be pleased with the brutality. Elijah Wood is fantastic and Nora Amezeder delivers a believable character. The narrative doesn't always work and it sometimes tries to act smarter than it really is. However, it accomplishes what it should and the target audience will enjoy it, which is what matters in the long run. Maniac is more lively than the mannequins, but it doesn't quite contain the dynamics to be a full-fledged killer. Rent it.

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