Written by: Andrew Ferell
I’m honestly disenchanted with how sterile the Horror realm has become in recent years. The endless unoriginal concepts and mundane reboots, lavishing in frightless clichés, has left a numb sensation for my passion of the genre. So I was hesitant when word of mouth circled about a newly adapted version of a 1980 Slasher, which is a praised touchstone in this territory. Miraculously enough, the 2012 French-American helmed Maniac appears to have stood up to the name of its predecessor. By maintaining a bewildering taste of terror, it inflicts those who cross its path in a morbidly fascinated way.
Now, having never seen the original picture myself, I can only dissect this output as a standalone piece. But I can easily gauge its worth through encompassing the grim elements, turned up a notch, from Alfred Hitchcock’s classic horror film, Psycho. Director Franck Khalfoun carefully illustrates the despicable clockwork of a soft-spoken man tormented by the memory of his mentally abusive mother. Frank Zito, portrayed by Elijah Wood, conjures up such a bizarrely leveling performance that will alter how we have perceived him as an actor. It’s a commanding lead role that certainly erases any doubt about his range.
The sinister tale is one of surrealism delivered in a nonstop barrage of shocking POV shots. Its powerful camera tricks drag viewers down into a rarely experienced stomach churning series of events. Through the eyes of our barbaric sociopath, we are made to relive in gritty detail what it would be like to hunt, maim, and kill innocent people. The execution is so graphic in its special effects that some participants at several promotional screenings became violently sick, either throwing up or passing out. What invokes such a strong reaction is meticulous inclusions of practical means, offering a spectacle CGI can’t match.
This extremely personal encounter is far from the mindless torture porn we’ve all grown indifferently accustomed to as of late. The sole purpose of Maniac is not to revel in the misplaced glorification of pure evil, but to highlight unspeakable atrocities committed by it in an intensely negative light. There are no excuses for this serial killer who obsessively stalks women in an hallucinatory struggle to keep his sadistic urges at bay. As it should be, the less you know of a characters backstory, the more fearful you look at them. Since it eliminates the unnecessary ploy to make you sympathize, you’re left with no choice.
Naturally, we as conscious human beings feel obliged to solve questions for which there are no answers. And the reality of not even beginning to understand the framework of these deeply twisted minds is the true body shaker. The unsettling depictions of scalped victims whose trophies will be placed on mannequin heads is not explained away by a deceased prostitute of a mother. Nor do we get a shred of insight into why Frank Zito envisions his family-acquired storefront come to life with the souls he has extinguished.
Maniac’s antagonist is a 21st century take on Norman Bates, ultimately becoming the destruction of his mysterious motivations carried out by grotesque deeds. The symbolism of a misplaced fixation is disturbingly believed to be a saving grace for his impulses. But the scariest fact of all is we are fully aware there can never be any redemption for these types of monsters. They’ll be wiped from this world with no fathom of remorse or condition of love for mankind. It’s entirely up to you to wonder, tragic or justice?