Franck Khalfoun’s Maniac stays true to the narrative of the original 1980 cult horror film which it is remaking, but I’m not certain that this was a selling point for me. The original had the make-up guru Tom Savini attached as both performer and creator of the more convincingly bloody aspects of the film, but it was still a movie many called depraved rather than a classic. Roger Ebert walked out of a screening after one of the more infamously graphic sequences. Just the same, I will review this remake as a stand-alone film. This also does not ensure any positive feedback, however, but not because of the film’s graphic nature. Violence is entirely acceptable tool if it has a purpose or some kind of statement, but it seems a pointless venture in stylistic violence in Franck Khalfoun’s Maniac.
Shot almost entirely from the point-of-view of the killer, a pathetic mannequin restorer named Frank (Elijah Wood), Maniac forces the audience to participate in the murders. In my review of the anniversary Halloween Blu-ray release, I discuss the brilliant use of POV to force the audience's participation in the film’s opening murder. Maniac over-uses this effect, essentially allowing for Wood to spend a minimized amount of time onscreen despite constant voice-over, but the biggest issue is the contradictory effect it seems to have on the narrative. We are placed in his point-of-view to see what the killer is seeing, but the narrative never allows for an understanding of his motivations. The camera may be in the place of Frank’s eyes, but the audience is never allowed into his head.
What we are left with are a series of gruesome murders without clear explanation. Frank has a penchant for scalping his victims, to use on his mannequins in the privacy of his home behind the restoration shop. When an attractive photographer named Anna becomes intrigued by the mannequins and wants to use them for her latest art project, Frank is pushed to new levels of destructive behavior. Unfortunately, this bloody climax is inevitable and drearily approached, despite constant graphic violence throughout the film.
The Blu-ray includes a making-of documentary, deleted scenes and a poster gallery for the film, but the highlight is the commentary track with Wood, Khalfoun and executive producer Alix Taylor. The special features are adequate enough for a lower budget film such as this. Everything about the disc release is fine, though it happens to be for a film which I can’t imagine recommending to anyone. This film is liked induced insanity, and the best thing that can be said is that it ends when you press the stop button.
Entertainment Value: 4/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 6/10
Historical Significance: 3/10
Disc Features: 7/10