May 11, 2013

Maniac (2013)

(aka Frodo Looses His Shit)
Release Date: Limited Theatrical and VOD on June 21st.
Country: France and USA.
Written by:  Alexandre Aja, Gregory Levassuer and Joe Spinell.
Directed by: Franck Kalfoun.
Starring: Elijah Wood, America Olivo and Nora Arnezeder.

So little Fredo Baggins is all grown and has decided to start killing whores, eh? Well hell, that sounds like a pretty good time to us, and why wouldn't it?

Elijah Wood has always been the cute little kid actor that tugged at people's heart-strings (?!?) until he landed the iconic role of Frobo Baggins in the Lord of the Rings flicks... and then he became a Hobbit who tugged at people's heart-strings (?!?) Since then he's gone on to star in plenty of good stuff (like FX's Willard, which is hilarious), but he'll always be Froyo to most people, don't you think? 

*Alright fine, we know it's Frodo with a D, but the name is too fun for us not to want to play with.

With Maniac, sweet little Elijah has gone over to the dark side in a big way. To us, this movie seemed like a mixture of 2011's Drive, and Prodigy's "Smack My Bitch Up" music video, with a liberal amount of insanity and violence added to the mix.

And Frodo. It's all about Frodo.

"Don't scream. You're so pretty."
Creepy-ass Frank grew up watching his whore mother bring home guys and sex them up right in front of his eyes, which is probably why he turned into a Maniac. Now he stalks the night, looking for street-walking whores to kill and scalp, because somehow it's his mother's will. Don't ask, just go with it.

"Hello, huh? Well you're obviously a whore who needs to die."
Furthering the belief that Online Dating is creepy and more dangerous than having unprotected sex with Miley Cyrus, Frank joins an Online Dating Site determined to find himself a healthy relationship. He meets up with a free-spirited skank, and it's not long before they end up back at her place where she kicks her whore mojo into high gear, and attempts to seduce the creepy little bastard. He decides that despite the quality blowie she's throwing him, that she's gotta go. Then he scalps her.

What is the deal with that rash around his mouth?
Things start to look up for Frank's love life when he meets the sweet and sexy Anna. Despite the fact that he's a grown man who runs a mannequin shop (WTF?!?!), the two begin a friendship that leads to Frank falling in love with her. Everything is all well and good until he discovers that she has a boyfriend, which causes him to lose his shit once again, and stab a whore to death in a parking lot. He ends up scalping her too, because he needs more scalps?

Yes, yes, we know, Elijah... they're all whores.
Frank spirals more and more out of control, killing whores and old women alike, all while trying to maintain enough of his sanity to be in love with Anna and have a happy life; you know, like a normal guy would. What he doesn't know is that even the most wholesome of loves will drive a man insane, and so he's basically screwed whichever way he goes. Mayhem and talking mannequins ensue.

That right there is basically a metaphor for love. Sure is.
To see Elijah Wood take such a creepy and twisted turn by playing a character like this was a great thing to behold. We're so used to him playing the good-hearted guy or making us laugh, that it kinda floored us to see him killing hookers and scalping them. He was pretty much the perfect actor for this role, and it's worth seeing the movie just to watch him slip deeper and deeper into his character's depraved and violent insanity.

We haven't seen much from Alexandre Aja for a few years, so we were excited to see what he and director Franck Khalfoun could do with a remake of this caliber. Sure, the original Maniac wasn't War & Peace or anything, but it's a great early 80's Sasher flick that gave us Joe Spinell's finest hour as an actor, and that's a pretty big deal. The guy was in the Godfather I & II, Rocky, and Nighthawks, so it's safe to say that he had chops. Maniac was his baby, and his baby turned out to be a classic.
As a remake of such a Cult Classic, this new Maniac is not only brutal and bloody, but it's also crazy stylish in the visual and audio departments as well, which ends up being the film's strong point. We liked most of the movie's POV camerawork, and we loved the slick and shadowy fell that Khalfoun and Aja gave the movie. They managed to pull off a film where the action is seen almost entirely through the eyes of the killer, which made it all the more unsettling. It's just really well made all around.

How can you not love a visual like that?
I wish this remake would have stuck to its grittier roots bit more. I loved the sleek feel of this movie, and it got plenty bloody and nasty along the way, but it almost felt at times as if it were a bit too polished. Part of the allure of the original Maniac was is dirty, grainy, cheap feel, and a little bit more of that aesthetic would have been a good thing for this remake.

Then again, it got most of the important parts right...
If the 1980 version of Maniac is remembered for one thing, it's the classic and infamous Shotgun Scene. I was truly sad to find that they didn't include that scene, or one like it, in this remake. To see Tom Savini get his head blown off by two barrels full of buckshot was a thing of shocking beauty back then, and it's one of those Horror scenes that you can never get fully out of your head.

We're truly bummed that they opted not to go for a gag like that in the remake, as I believe Aja could have made it even bloodier and better than it was in the original. Or at least as good.

One of the best scenes in Horror history. Period.
There's enough blood and violence in this one to satisfy even the most seasoned of Horror fans. Various women are stabbed and scalped, choked to death, tortured... but for our money the best kill of the movie involves a chick getting a knife under the chin a through the mouth.

He told you not to scream, dummy.
This movie throws plenty of sexual situations on screen, some of them being pretty uncomfortable to watch... alright, just about all of it was pretty uncomfortable to watch, even though things don't get much more explicit than a few girls getting topless.

We're not sure if we like this remake better than the original, but it's safe to say that the 2013 version of Maniac is every bit as good as the 1980 slasher classic, even if it is in different ways. Bloody, brutal, slick and manic, this movie gives Horror fans exactly what they need right now, and that's a solid, straight-forward Horror flick. There are no tricks here, no twists, no lame-ass dues ex machina bullshit that insults the audience, just a good old-fashioned, honest Slasher flick that gives us what it's supposed to, no more, no less.

It's also a must see for Elijah Wood fans, because they'll never truly look at him the same way after seeing his turn in this one.


Nora Arnezeder and America Olivo, along with the other girls who starred in Maniac, did a great job of making an ugly little movie look plenty pretty. Thanks ladies. Sorry you had to die in such awful ways.


  1. I am still a little freaked to watch Elijah in Sin City. He was definately psycho in that one. Will check this one out for sure.

  2. Don't forget about Elijah's character from Sin City. That was a dark and creepy one as well.

  3. Don't forget about Elijah's part in Sin City. Was dark and creepy also.

  4. Kevin from Sin City was one of the best characters ever. He was truly creepy in that.

  5. I still preferred Kevin (Sin City), but this was a brilliant film, I enjoyed every moment of it. Damn Elijah, you scary!