Maniac Blu-ray Review
It’s easy to get up in arms when it’s announced that yet another horror classic is being remade. So many—THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, FRIDAY THE 13TH, HALLOWEEN, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, to name a small sampling—try to update the source for modern audiences so much that they lose what made the original so good. That’s where MANIAC gets it right.
Frank Zito (Elijah Wood) runs a mannequin business during the day and prowls the streets at night. He spends part of his time online in chat rooms and dating sites, trying to pick up any girl foolish enough to agree to a date. One such girl (Megan M. Duffy) invites him into her apartment for a drink and, well, we know things will turn bad once “Goodbye Horses” comes onto the soundtrack. After she strips and leads him to the bedroom, Frank has an attack and wraps his hands around her throat and then scalps her. He then takes the scalp home and staples it to a mannequin’s bald head. “This may sting a little,” he says. Cue the violent hallucinations and flashbacks of mommy.
MANIAC is directed by Franck Khalfoun (2007’s P2) and is a remake of the 1980 borderline video nasty, directed by William Lustig (the MANIAC COP trilogy) and starring Joe Spinelli. That movie was the sort whose poster shows the killer holding a victim’s scalp in one hand and a bloody knife in the other.
This version both modernizes and maintains the feel of the original. Here, the look is a bit slicker and the story is moved to the opposite coast. Keeping in the vein of the 1980 MANIAC are the major plot details (including the recently deceased prostitute mother, who Frank has a Norman Bates-type obsession with; Frank’s befriending a photographer named Anna, here played by Nora Arnezeder; and Frank’s virginity, which seems to play a role in his madness) and even the score, whose electronic cues would fit right in with MANIAC and other horror movies of that era (especially John Carpenter’s). And of course, there is the blood and gore.
Two of the biggest aspects that make MANIAC so disturbing are its style and star. This isn’t the sort of movie you’d expect Elijah Wood—He’s Frodo! He’s North! He’s a penguin named Mumble!—to be interested in. But Wood has proven to be a mighty fine psycho (as he displayed in 2005’s SIN CITY) and he’s absolutely demented here. Who would have thought that one day we’d be hearing the older brother from RADIO FLYER preface a midnight murder with, “Please don’t scream, you’re so beautiful”? MANIAC is shot entirely from Frank’s point of view (we only see him through his own reflection), which puts the knife in the viewer’s hand. We’re not allowed a second away from Frank, which will unease many.
The original MANIAC doesn’t have the prominence in the horror genre as any of the titles listed at the start of this review, but the remake has what their reboots don’t: the urge to stand out.
MANIAC BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 2.40:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. MANIAC looks pretty good in high-definition, even if this sort of movie shouldn’t be entirely crisp. Details and textures are strong throughout, but the blacks during night scenes sometimes look flat.
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Subtitles in English and Spanish. This is a very effective audio track, with realistic sound effects (the murders are brutal) and a strong score (by French composer Rob).
Commentary with star Elijah Wood, director Franck Khalfoun and executive producer Alix Taylor: The trio, who has a terrific chemistry that comes forth, spends the track discussing the style, locations, positives and negatives in tackling a remake, and more.
Making Of (1:06:21): This feature-length documentary uses clips (of both the original and this remake), on-set footage and various interviews (with Wood, Khalfoun, Taylor, co-writer Alexandre Aja, and more) to paint a detailed portrait of MANIAC’s production. Topics touched on include the themes, characters, style, goriness, music, and more.
Deleted Scenes (4:09): There are several collected here, which offer some more blood and Frank creepiness.