Film Review: Maniac

Elijah Wood as Frank, spends his nights muttering sweet nothings before scalping them.scalping them

Elijah Wood as Frank, spends his nights muttering sweet nothings to girls before scalping them.

The original Maniac is a grimy affair, covered in a crust of cum and blood it has a deserved reputation of being totally unpalatable. It is however an interesting concept and it does push your buttons, and with this modern revamping, it is at least equally horrible, but instead of covered in a crust, it is in a high end pastry shop glaze of cum and blood.

Elijah Wood is our maniac, Frank, a loner with a disturbed memory of his mother who spends his nights stalking girls, breathing heavily and muttering sweet nothings before scalping them. It pushes it further as he uses the scalps as the finishing touches to the mannequins he creates, lives and sleeps with.

Firstly, outside the narrative, the film does shake off the grindhouse dirt of the original and in doing so, director Franck Khalfoun, gives the film its own identity through the stylistic approach. From the off, the city is blinkering and full of neon and with the retro-synth soundtrack it is no doubt riffling on the popular drug aesthetic of 2011’s Drive, but what is most interesting is the way that 90% of the film is in point-of-view of Frank. The voyeurism created is very effective, and every woman feels like a target which really makes you uneasy in your seat. It takes a lot of skill and craft to make this POV technique not feel like novelty, so credit is due there. It is effective, especially in the moments it pulls out from the POV, it really does emphasise moments and split seconds of subtly enhanced emotion, which contrasts the full on, bold blood and violence that is pushed right into your face most of the time.

Unfortunately, when you look past the stories shock and nastiness (even in the original) it is rather absurd, the fringe characters are hollow and our Maniac himself is one dimensional. This really strains in the screenplay, and as characters talk to each other and especially every time we hear Frank describe what he is thinking, it really brings things down. Aesthetically the film does succeed and creates a real unease and also mystery, but that web of intrigue into the mind of someone so deranged is completely shattered when Frank spells it out in his screams of madness. Elijah wood gives a great physical performance, but when he opens his mouth, at its worst it just seems like some sort of bizarre impression of Gollum and Buffalo Bill.

Ultimately, it has to be said, aesthetic style rarely carries a film, but here it does. Where the grime of the original film was also weighed down in its lo-fi roots, the gloss and gleam here does make the grotesque violence a little more palatable, but that is not to say it is less violent either.

Director:  Franck Khalfoun
Cast: America Olivo, Elijah Wood, Liane Balaban, Morgane Slemp, Nora Arnezeder, Sammi Rotibi
Runtime: 90 mins
Cert UK: 18


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