Maniac is a remake of a film from 1980 with the same title. I have not yet seen the original so this review is purely on the 2012 version.
I knew absolutely nothing about maniac, other than that it was a horror movie starring Elijah Wood. It has gotten some pretty terrible reviews and people have strayed away from the movie, claiming it to be too intense for them. I don’t see that as a reason to avoid a horror movie. The whole point is to be unnerving and intense, so that seems like a compliment to the movie more than anything.
The movie started and I was surprised to learn that the movie is presented in first person. His reflection in the rear view mirror isn’t just a stylistic touch for the poster. You largely only see Elijah wood in his reflection. There are a few shots where the camera goes to a 3rd person perspective and you do see him, but for the most part it is all POV. You see the events transpiring through the eyes of the killer. This is one incredibly deranged psychopath and the fact that you’re seeing everything he does through his eyes makes everything more intense. Since you’re witnessing it all first person you feel almost like your condoning his actions, like you should be doing something to stop him. That combined with the fact that the movie can get really gory is most likely why audiences are turning away. I thought the first person effect was utilized to its full extent because it serves to actually put you into the mind of a psychopath. I liked the effect but strangely enough I watched this movie after marathoning 3 seasons of Peep Show (a British comedy that is done in first person) so I couldn’t shake the feeling that Mark Corrigan was killing people.
Elijah Wood plays the main lead and his performance is a difficult and complicated one. Since you largely see him only in reflection, Wood had to carry the performance mostly with his voice. He does a very good job. He is convincing as a psychopath, the only little problem I have with his performance is that when he is yelling the quality of his performance seems to dip a little bit.
This movie can be very creepy and maybe even make some viewers uncomfortable. It risks alienating its viewers but doesn’t pull any punches, it’s ballsy but I’m glad they didn’t play it safe. Those who do stick with the film will probably enjoy it. I thought Maniac was a great film, but it is really not for everybody. The gore be excessive and even unnecessary at times and the effects are also a mixed bag. There are some digital effects that don’t look so great.
One particularly funny moment is when a woman Elijah Wood’s character is on a date with goes to put on some “sexy” music, except she chooses Goodbye Horses AKA the song Buffalo Bill dances to in Silence of the Lambs. The characters also attend a showing of the cabinet of Dr. Caligari so there are plenty of little references for film fans thrown in there.
I enjoyed the story in Maniac. The narrative may not be the strongest but it was presented in a very interesting way and some well timed flashbacks provide enough of a background to fully establish the main character’s motives. Towards the end, the story begins to slip a little bit.
Overall Maniac really surprised me. I thought it was a terrific film. Be warned it is fairly harrowing and somewhat experimental, but that’s not really a bad thing, that’s kind of the whole point of horror movies of this breed. Maniac is a very good film to watch this October leading up to Halloween.
You can get it on blu-ray by clicking right HERE and keep checking back for the rest of October for a new horror review everyday with this year’s Macabre Month of Horror.