Friday, 8 March 2013
Review: Maniac (2012)
I told you not to go out tonight....Frank (Elijah Wood) is a troubled man. Running the family business, a mannequin restoration shop, after his mother dies, he cruises the internet and the streets looking for women. Nothing altogether strange about that, he's a good looking lad. Except his outings tend to end with him going home with the ladies' scalp.
There is always going to be an outcry and some worry (and often preconceived hate) when it is announced a film, especially one which has a reputation, is being remade. Luckily, Franck Khalfoun's update of William Lustig's 1980 nasty, sleazy (but fantastic) flick is a revelation. Instead of turning in a glossy, Hollywood formulaic slasher, we get a film that gets so far under your skin you may well ingest it, staying with you for some time after. While the original had the effect of making you feel dirty, largely thanks to Joe Spinell's inspired performance and the general misogynistic tone, this version, while not completely polished, has something of a heart that is ready to be torn out.
Director Khalfoun appeared as an actor in screenwriter/producer Alexandre Aja's brilliant Haute Tension (aka Switchblade Romance, 2003) and has crafted a work of genius. Shooting the majority of the film from the point of view of our friendly neighbourhood killer is a masterstroke. This is a standard slasher trope but using it throughout instantly sucks you into his world, making you compliant with his actions, while also making you feel empathy with him, much in the same way Michael Powell's Peeping Tom (1960) did. The casting of Wood is a masterstroke, beating his turn in Green Street and Sin City (both 2005) and certainly puts all thoughts of Middle Earth from your head.
The story stays fairly true to the path of the original, with just some minor tweaks, and as such anyone familiar with that will know how it will end and where it is going, but it manages to avoid copying set pieces (so the fabulous exploding head in the car is absent). A great shot has the original movie's artwork re-created in a reflection in a car door, and raises a smile when one of Frank's early pickups puts Q Lazzarus' Goodbye Horses on to seduce him. The junkies and prostitutes of the original are replaced by vacuous art dealers and elitist idiots. Ana's agent and boyfriend (and, we can assume, Ana herself) think Frank is gay, much to his horror. It would, however, have been more radical to have no attempt to explain why Frank is compelled to kill, rather than blaming the usual dysfunctional parent problems.
The film does not avoid being very visceral and graphic and newcomers to the material are going to be in for a wild ride, and should be prepared to be well and truly freaked out by the end. The evocative soundtrack (credited to "Rob") is impressive too.
This is, without doubt, a classic for the future and is genuinely terrifying, which is refreshing in this day and age. Catch it on a big screen if you get the chance.
9 out of 10