Elijah Wood in Maniac (2012)

Lost in the Wood

Frank Zito (Elijah Wood) is many things; he is a resident of L.A. and also a restorer of antique mannequins which he displays in the shop he inherited. But Frank is something else, he is a psycho who stalks women and scalps them, using the scalps to adorn the mannequins which he keeps in his apartment which he talks to and sleeps with. It is his mannequins in his shop window which grab the attention of photographer Anna (Nora Arnezeder) and her appreciation of his mannequins brings out a gentler side in him. That is until he discovers that Anna already has a boyfriend causing him to become even more deranged than usual.

I suppose technically "Maniac" was made for someone like me; I like horror movies and I haven't seen the original which I am told features a great performance from Joseph Spinell. But I didn't get it, I didn't really find myself drawn in to this story of a man who right from the start is clearly disturbed and has no hope of redemption or rest from what he does because what he does is so disturbing, well scalping attractive women is disturbing and director Franck Khalfoun doesn't refrain from being graphic with the aid of modern special effects.

Liane Balaban in Maniac (2012)

Now I can understand what Khalfoun was going for with "Maniac" because so much of the movie is delivered via first person point of view so we as the audience should be able to get in to the head of Frank more be it when he is stalking women to visions of his mother when he was a child. But it is a gimmick which Khalfoun doesn't stick to as sometimes he cleverly gives us reflections in mirrors so we can see Frank at others he doesn't make it clear that it is the case and so in a way cheats. It isn't just the cheating on the p.o.v. gimmick as attempts to get us into Frank's mind and what he is thinking during his manic moments doesn't fully work and it is all a bit sketchy.

The knock on effect of this is that "Maniac" suddenly becomes all about the graphic horror rather than the story and I am sure that was not the intention. But it is extremely graphic with effect use of special effects to really bring the horror of a beautiful woman getting her scalp cut off. Although as I say that the horror is not the only graphic aspect of the movie and there is frequent nudity and sex scenes which is often more attention grabbing than the horror.

What this all boils down to is that "Maniac" has all the pieces for an above average horror but the whole point of view gimmick ends up just that and annoying one which spoiled the movie for me.