Alexandre Aja’s Maniac – Is It Worth Your Money?
“Please don’t scream, I love you”
Horror movie remakes have been a common occurrence now for over a decade. While they drive real horror fans batshit crazy, the general public keeps paying for them, hence the reason we see so many of them. Regardless of how you feel about remakes, I think every horror fan can agree there have been some exceptional ones, and even a few that turn out better than the originals. One of these that I found to be better than the original was Alexandre Aja’s The Hills Have Eyes. Since his success with that remake he has gone on to do three more: Mirrors (2008), Piranha 3D (2010), and Maniac (2012). As you can see, Aja has had some great success remaking movies. While I wasn’t a big fan of Piranha 3D (I know I’m part of the minority in this opinion), my main focus here is Maniac. While Maniac was first shown at Cannes over a year ago, it still hasn’t made its way to major theaters or home video. I was lucky enough to catch it in a micro theater in Seattle the other night with my fellow horror movie enthusiast friend and occasional writing ally, Rebecca Hansen. I’m going to start the review with her opinion of the movie and while we haven’t disagreed on much yet with our reviews, she definitely brings a different perspective.
If you’d like to read another review we did together check out this review of World War Z.
Trailing between blurred visions of reality and an incessant need for companionship, Maniac felt like a front row seat to the life and trials of a modern day Oedipus. In my opinion, this is the type of film that should be brought back to the mainstream. It isn’t fast paced, there aren’t any chainsaws, and it probably won’t give you nightmares. That is exactly what makes it truly terrifying. Don’t get me wrong though…I love the overdone, over scored and blood soaked massacres that grace my dvd shelves, but there is nothing better than the effortless simplicity of a melodic soundtrack and one cut-of-the-knife take out (with a little bit of love on the side). This is the type of film that reminds us to not walk the streets alone at night and to stay away from men in mustard colored turtlenecks with a knack for women’s hair pieces.
Maniac is unique as it takes place entirely in first person via POV shots from Frank Zito (played be Elijah Wood.) This concept of having an entire movie shot in first person seemed like a bad idea to me. I was guessing it was going to get old quickly. Boy was I wrong. The movie manged to remain both thrilling and spine chillingly creepy throughout. I don’t suggest every horror movie jump on this band wagon, but God damn was it a great idea. The creepy feeling of this movie was only furthered by the Carpenter-esque score done by unknown french artist Robin Coudert. I really feel like Coudert’s work here was equally as important as director Franck Khalfoun; not to say Khalfoun’s work wasn’t amazing. In fact, the visuals in this movie are absolutely outstanding and although this is not a 3D movie, there are times you feel like you’re inside it. Some have said this film has a certain noir quality, and I do agree with them. The cinematography is dirty and gritty, making it that much more effective in creeping the hell out of you. Cinematographer Maxime Alexandre known for his work on High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes remake, and The Crazies remake can be thanked for this.
Considering going into this I knew it was a low budget festival style flick, I had very little to complain about. If I was to pick apart one aspect of it, I’d say the dialogue was tacky and unnatural in parts, but this was not enough to stop me from totally loving this movie from beginning to end. Elijah Wood’s acting was certainly up to his usual caliber as he manages to play the roll of Zito better than Joe Spinell did in the original Maniac from 1980.
I don’t know about this movie not giving you nightmares. Movies like Maniac are ultimately a more effective source of fear over zombies, and vampires for me because this world has already seen hundreds of woman murdering sociopaths with mother issues. In fact, just look at serial killer Henry Lee Lucas who’s real life parelles Frank Zito’s in many ways. If you get a chance to see this movie, jump on it! It is 100% worth your money. If you like horror movies and you can stand brutality, you’ll want to watch this movie. I do understand it has a low score at a certain fruit based review site, but to that I say: if you don’t like seeing gore, don’t watch horror movies!
OVERALL RATING: 9 OUT OF 10 – One of the best slasher flicks made in the last twenty years.
Just when the streets seemed safe, a serial killer with a fetish for scalps is back and on the hunt. Frank is the withdrawn owner of a mannequin store, but his life changes when young artist Anna appears asking for his help with her new exhibition. As their friendship develops and Frank’s obsession escalates, it becomes clear that she has unleashed a long-repressed compulsion to stalk and kill.