My dear Frank, what have you done?
Franck Khalfoun‘s remake of director William Lustig‘s 1980 film Maniac came as a bit of a surprise because Elijah Wood (a.k.a Frodo Baggins) stars as the serial killer in the film, in addition to maintaining an ultra violent and gory significance throughout the entire film. Khalfoun’s version of the 80’s film is an excitable improvement. One that should rank high on your “must see” list.
Wood is Frank, a lonely manikin repair business man with a strange obsession–he likes to top his two-legged, plastic antiques heads with the scalps of his victims, with his mother’s promiscuity through his childhood driving him to madness. I don’t need to understand why his mother’s doings had anything to do with her hairstyle, however, in Frank’s case, I can understand how the wanting subtleness that only a mother’s love can give, which may be enough to set the stage for one of the most beautifully orchestrated and emotionally effective settings for a serial killer film.
Frank looks like a normal person, as one of his victims pointed out, and he meets someone with similar interests in his manikin restoration work. Anna (Nora Amezeder) is a beautiful photographer interested in using Frank’s antique manikins for one of her art shows. Frank instantly develops an obsession with her. Anna stirs up “the good” in him. She is not like his mother–not a whore, she isn’t neglectful. She is interested in him and in his work.
What I found really intriguing about this film is how Frank’s environment changed along with him. Much of his pursuits were filmed from a first-person perspective–you see everything Frank does–you see how the women he prey upon react to him–in terror. The film places you in the driver’s seat, beckoning at your fight and flight responses, and I’ll be dammed if your natural or predatory senses in either way is affected. The transitions from Frank’s subconscious battles and actions flow smoothly; you feel what Frank is feeling as you “shadow” him, his anticipations, his dialogue, his morality and psychotic responses. In addition, there are flashbacks that facilitate these scenes as the film progresses. These add more content to the story–keeps you from asking questions or becoming confused. This is an amazing slasher film that fans want, and it does what it sets out to do–and then some.
The director and Wood provide you with everything you need to understand and “participate” visually in what’s going on. Maniac is teeming in brutal horror movie violence that is excessive in gore. This is a good thing.
So be thankful.