Review: Maniac (2012)

Frank Zito (Elijah Wood) is a prolific serial killer, taking out the city’s finest looking women, one at the time. Desperately trying to connect and have a “normal” relationship, he is unable to undress a woman without scalping her afterwards. Plagued by childhood trauma induced schizophrenia and stuck in the Oedipal phase Frank descends deeper and deeper into his own madness. One sunny day he meets Anna (Nora Arnezeder) a fresh-faced, blonde photographer weirdly, but genuinely interested in his mannequins. As expected Frank’s hopes for a romantic happy ending are compromised by his insanity, his unhealthy jealousy, and the fact that he is a raging maniac. 

Shot from the point of view of the killer, the Maniac remake of William Lustig’s 1980 film, is a refreshing take on the orginal especially aesthetically. Both cinematography and score end up giving the movie a pulpy Drive (2011) feel, while at the same time echoing the giallo-esque tones of the original. Referencing German impressionist classic Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (1920) and paying homage to the original Maniac poster, this film was clearly trying to please everyone. Written by remake veteran Alexandre Aja and directed by Franck Khalfoun this is a much glossier and stylish rendition, instead of the down-and-dirty, gritty approach of the original. Both movies capture the night. This one just uses more neon lights to do so.

Overall I thought the movie works okay, but not being a crazy lunatic myself it was hard to buy into the whole POV-shot gimmick. Elijah Wood and Nora Arnezeder both do a fine job in their respective roles, but ultimately I can’t find myself relating or identifying with any of the characters in this film. Arriving at the climax of the story I didn’t find myself empathizing and feeling for the characters as much as I would have wanted to. I also expected the film to have something more – or different – to say in terms of narrative, but it explores the same themes and ideas. Being someone who values visuals and style however there is a lot to enjoy in that department and the nods to other films are always a delight to spot. When all is said and done though I prefer Joe Spinell’s portrayal of the villain, because of his natural sleaziness and effortlessly creepy face.

Rating of First Viewing
(on our Sony Bravia, with my brother)
6.5 out of 10


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