So, here we go again with the remake of an 80’s slasher film: “Maniac”, directed by Franck Khalfoun (P2) and written by Alexandre Aja (High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes 2006), Gregory Levassseur and C.A. Rosenberg. “Maniac” brings us the story of Frank Zito (Elijah Wood) a man who grew up in the mannequin restoration business (because this is, apparently, a need in the world) .Young Frank would brush his mother’s long, glossy hair before she went out for a night of prostitution:this childhood has created a man who cannot properly connect with women and who’s sexual impulses manifest in extreme violence.
Initially, Wood seems an unlikely choice to play Frank Zito, but it’s his big, blue eyes and delicate features that make it work so well. It’s so disarming to see our beloved Frodo commit such reprehensible acts.(It should be noted that Wood is an avid horror fan with his own production company, The Woodshed Horror Company.) Filmed from Frank’s point of view, the movie makes the viewer complicit in his violence. You only see Frank in reflections or as his hands move in front of the camera : this is very effective as a tool to heighten the sinister nature of Frank’s dysfunction. You can hear him breathing and feel the fear of his victims the moment they realize he has his sights set on them. Frank’s release comes with the scalping of the women he has chosen; the F/X are especially gruesome and well done.
As we travel along with Frank choosing, stalking and, ultimately, scalping our next victim, we meet Anna. Anna is a photographer whom Frank helps with her art exhibit and tries to build a relationship with. When Frank realizes Anna has a boyfriend, he is sent into a tailspin that does not end well. Again, it’s Wood’s innocuous appearance and seemingly sweet,delicate demeanor that make his killings even more of a gut punch. You can feel all of his mixed emotions during a particularly brutal stabbing and, later, the scalping of a woman he believes to be his dead mother.
There are a few moments in the movie that acknowledge the original, while simultaneously reminding us that this is a new vision. Recently banned in New Zealand, some view the film as a crass, pointless piece of garbage, but this viewer found the P.O.V. an interesting twist, Wood to be exceptional and,overall, a worthy reinterpretation of a classic.