Action Movie Fanatix Review: Maniac (2012)

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Starring: Elijah Wood, Nora Arnezeder

Director: Franck Khalfoun

2012  |  88 Minutes  |  Not Rated

“OK, I know where you live, Judy.  See you later.” – Frank

I have kind of a weird fascination with serial killers.  Not call the authorities weird.  But Maniac was certainly on my radar from the minute I first heard about it.

Frank (Elijah Wood), a mannequin store owner, develops a lust for blood… and the scalps of his female victims when he becomes obsessed with a young artist who turns to him for help with her latest exhibit.

Call me an amateur cinephile but I didn’t realize that Maniac was a remake, of sorts, until I actually fired the movie up and saw it in the credits.  That also meant that Maniac was more of a slasher movie than I was expecting.  I had been hoping for something that more realistically represented the inner workings of a sociopath.  What we got was certainly creepy but it was hard to believe that it was anything other than pure fiction.

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Most of the film is shown in a first person view.  Not like a found footage type of view, more like we are literally watching through the eyes of Frank… the killer.  I watched on my computer with headphones on which actually turned out to be a pretty cool way to watch this kind of a movie.  On a few occasions the camera pulls away and shows us a more traditional view of the goings on.  When it happens it is really jarring.  We become accustomed to watching in this view that feels very personal and voyeuristic and then all of a sudden, for no reason at all, we are thrown back into the traditional third person viewpoint.  In a movie like this there could be reasons to use a third person view but there HAS to be a reason.  Having no reason, or at least no obvious reason, makes it feel like an accident.

Why do you suppose it is so easy for us to believe Elijah Wood in the role of a creep?  He’s pulled it off multiple times with panache.  I think it must be his boyish looks.  It makes it especially easy, even at 33 years of age, to believe that there is a little boy trapped inside a man’s body and that little boy just ain’t quite right in the head.

Since we rarely see his face, Frank’s hands lend a sense of how disturbed he really is.  To the outside world his nicked up hands are simply due to his mannequin restoration work but we know better.

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Frank’s violent murders are shockingly hard to watch… even for this grizzled action movie veteran.  I’d watch the Nazi scalpings of Inglourious Basterds ten times over before watching another of these innocent girls get brutalized again.

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Maniac is a hard movie to review.  It is mostly well crafted, well acted and interesting.  But at the same time it is extremely disturbing.  It feels like you shouldn’t be watching and almost begs you to turn away.  Maniac isn’t for everyone and even the people who DO enjoy the movie are not likely to want to watch it again and again.

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