A psychopath (Elijah Wood, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring) with a thing for human scalps and mannequins stalks the streets of L. A., California. He’s the stereotypical movie loner — awkward, withdrawn, socially inept — whose madness takes a turn for the worse when he meets an artist (Nora Arnezeder, Paris 36).
Reaction & Thoughts:
This remake of William Lustig’s 1980s cult classic of the same name is a mess. The original wasn’t a particularly good film: Joe Spinell’s deliciously hammy performance, Robert Lindsay’s grainy cinematography and Tom Savini’s gruesome make-up effects were the best things about the old film. Remove those elements and you have nothing. That’s why a remake was never going to work.
The entire film is shot with a first-person POV style. If you’ve seen Lady in the Lake (1947) and/or Enter the Void (2009), you know what I’m talking about. I’ve never liked the technique, so I found the whole thing unbearable. It’s a gimmick for lazy and unimaginative filmmakers.
I also thought that Elijah Wood was a poor choice. In all fairness, it’s hard to judge his performance because you hardly see him. All I can say is that his “voice” didn’t work for me — I kept hearing Mr. Frodo.
Director Franck Khalfoun avoids re-creating the original’s most iconic murder-set-pieces, but he doesn’t come up with any interesting substitutions. Khalfoun also botches what was meant to be a gorgeously ambiguous and surreal ending. It’s possible that Alexandre Aja (Haute Tension), who produced and co-wrote the film, realized that this was a fool’s errand because he handed the directorial reins to a director with a bad track record; I can’t say I blame him.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Maniac is just another pointless remake for undemanding viewers. I’m fond of the 1980 movie and I didn’t think this was an improvement — you are better off renting the old film! Color, 89 minutes, Rated R.