Before I even talk about this movie, let me say this: If you are at all squeamish or are easily freaked out, don’t bother reading this review and don’t ever see the movie. There are things in here that you can’t un-see. I’ve seen some pretty messed up movies, and even I was like “Yikes.”
The way the film draws you in is by showing everything from the point of view of Frank, played by Elijah Wood. Seeing the world through the eyes of a serial killer is a change from the normal slasher films (though it has been done before), and makes the killings more visceral and brutal. Wood plays the role about as well as anyone could, proving once again that he’s an incredibly underrated actor. Even though we only see him in reflections and flashback, he brings great depth with just his voice and our few glimpses at him.
Frank owns a mannequin shop, which acts as his lair as well. He kills women, takes off their scalp, and puts it in a mannequin. No spoilers here, as we learn all this in the first few minutes of the film. This guy has some serious mother issues that make Norman Bates look like Ned Flanders. His mother was a junkie whore, and since her death Frank has been trying to “find” her and “heal” her through these women he kills.
He meets a beautiful young artist named Anna (Nora Arnezedar), who finds the mannequins in his shop quite alluring. They strike up a friendship and Frank feels like he’s finally found someone he can connect with. They have lunch together and he has one of his many “migraines.” He runs off, afraid that he’s scared her off, but the relationship remains intact and later he attends her big gallery show.
I won’t go into any more detail other than to say that there are many grisly deaths and enough Freudian moments to fill a warehouse. Wood inhabits this character, and through the lens of Franck Khalfoun, so do we. It’s a creepy feeling to see things from the angle of the bad guy, and after the movie I definitely felt the need to cleanse myself with The Sound Of Music or some other innocent entertainment.
The film, a re-imagining of William Lustig’s 1980 work of the same name, was produced and co-written by Alexandre Aja. If that name sounds familiar its because he’s been making quite a footprint in this genre over the last decade. His film Haute Tension received a lot of praise back in 2003, and more recently Piranha has garnered a reputation as a fun B-movie.
I was a bit leery about watching this one-horror isn’t really my thing. The camerawork is superb, making Los Angeles at night both beautiful and horrifying. The score by Rob is also a brilliant addition, bringing the sounds in Frank’s head to life with synthesizers similar to the work of Umberto.
If you like your slasher movies with a good amount of gore, Maniac won’t leave you hanging. The film is just under 90 minutes, and probably better off with a short runtime. I don’t know how long I’d want to live in this world. If you only know Elijah Wood from Lord Of The Rings or The Ice Storm, prepare yourself. You’ll never look at him the same after this.