Mania Review: Maniac -

Mania Review

Mania Grade: A-

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  • Starring: Elijah Wood, Nora Arnezeder, America Olivo, Liane Balaban, Megan Duffy
  • Written By: Alexandre Aja (screenplay), Grégory Levasseur (screenplay), C.A. Rosenberg (screenplay), Joe Spinell (original screenplay)
  • Directed By: Franck Khalfoun
  • Studio: La Petite Reine, Studio 37, Canal+, IFC Midnight
  • Rating: Unrated
  • Running Time: 89 Minutes
  • Series:

Mania Review: Maniac

The remake gets a facelift

By Robert T. Trate     June 21, 2013

The very word “remake” is sickening to the fan of the original. However, there are times when a remake can be a good thing. It allows many of us to seek out the original film and examine what was released before. When I learned of the remake of William Lustig’s Maniac, I found myself with the opportunity see the original film on 35mm as well as hear Lustig speak about his picture. When the subject of the remake arose, he mentioned that he was all for it and for one reason, money. A fair and honest answer. Yet, for someone like myself who loves movies, an answer such as “money” usually means there will be little heart in the remake. 

Franck Khalfoun’s remake of the 1980 slasher film Maniac adheres very closely to the plot of its predecessor. However, where it succeeds in disarming us is with the most unlikely of killers, Elijah Wood. Frank (Wood) stalks his victims in a variety of fashions throughout the city of Los Angeles. He either follows them on the street, in his van, or sets up dates with them via an internet service. Frank’s passion is to remove their scalps and attach to them to his collection of Mannequins he restores back at his shop. Make no mistake, the childlike appearance of Elijah Wood hides a disturbed killer. Yet, that is this film’s greatest twist. We only see Wood’s Frank in reflections. We are given his perspective throughout the majority of the film. 

This approach was done in Lustig’s original film, but it did not adhere to it completely. In this remake/ re-imagined version of his story, we see Frank’s hands more than anything. Wood’s voice disarms us with his childlike sound. It’s a voice that reminds us of his characters in The Good Son and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, the voice of a good person. However, as the film progresses, we learn that there is another voice in Frank’s head, that of his younger self. Frank’s childhood haunts him to this very day and we learn that this tortured character is looking for both a release and an escape from all that he is.

When Frank meets Anna (Nora Arnezeder) he believes that this is the woman he can have all for himself. She is more than someone to add to his collection. With her, everything can be all right. What works really well in the film is how Anna meets Frank. Whereas all the other female victims had been sought out by Frank, it is Anna who stumbles upon him. Together, they have so much in common, Frank believes that she is his match. However, each and every time Frank finds that bliss, he hears the call that she, too, belongs with his Mannequins. 

The film falters on not a single note. The character of Frank stays true to who he is. Each turn, each victim, and each chance for Frank to escape is plagued by who he is and what haunts him. Alexander Aja and Gregory Levasseur’s screenplay puts the audience into Frank’s world. We feel sorry for Frank and fear him, as well. The first two victims set a stage that actually makes you root for Frank, but the reality of their slayings quickly remind you Frank is not the one you should be rooting for. 

As “remakes” go, they rarely get as good as this. Maniac finds ways to take its mediocre story and update it for a modern audience. Sadly, that audience may not appreciate what has been done to their cult favorite. Those that love the power of film and its ability tell a story will find Maniac a disturbing and delicious treat. 


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fatpantz 6/21/2013 1:08:56 AM

Elijah Wood showed me his eerie hellish side back in Sin City....I cant wait to watch this remake.

MrJawbreakingEquilibrium 6/21/2013 5:10:08 AM

Loved this movie - found a DVD of it here in Thailand. I thought it had been out already on DVD - apparently it's a bootleg but whatever. I don't know if I can watch it again though. Very disturbing. The POV just makes you feel dark.

Wiseguy 6/21/2013 6:24:15 AM

BOB how about fixing that WWZ ad that's fucking up the entire site

Than you

RobertTrate 6/21/2013 6:53:18 AM

 We are working on it. I had to login via my iPad just to write this

wormlander 6/22/2013 7:26:15 AM

I never watched the original "Maniac" but this remake is definitely the best serial killer movie in quite some time. And I'm not a fan of slashers to begin with. I also agree with fatpantz that Wood's psychopath in "Sin City" was absolutely brilliant. I've actually been expecting him to return to this genre sooner rather than later, based on that creepy performance alone. Very few actors manage to create even one single great demonic interpretation in their entire carreer. Woods has already done two. Most impressive!

jdiggitty 7/3/2013 10:48:31 PM

 I don't get it. This was one of the worst movies I've seen in quite some time. Was Wood's dialouge recorded on a different track and added to the film later? That, with the horrible writing and acting made it seem like he was never even present in the scenes. 

I challenge you to go back and pay attention to how he delivers his lines. And the film does move out from Franks POV a number of times so you're wrong in saying we only see him in reflections. Frankly, those are the only scenes that feel "complete" to me, since Wood is actually there in the scenes and they don't sound like a voice over. 

grade F



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