Monday, 15 April 2013

Review - Maniac (2013 - Franck Khalfoun)

This review may be different to other reviews of this remake of Maniac because I haven't actually seen the original. I've always liked the sound of it but never got round to it (The Prowler is another film that I'll watch someday). So I can actually take this version on its own merits and not be comparing it every step of the way. But even so, I'm guessing that the original's better...

Frank (Elijah Wood) is a rather disturbed individual with a hair/scalp fetish. In fact, he likes hair and scalps so much that he collects them, minus the rest of the head and body. The film is primarily shot from Frank's POV with Elijah Wood only being seen in reflective surfaces. Quite an interesting take on the serial killer genre that should put the audience into the mind of the killer. And on this level the film works. Almost.

Elijah Wood again shows his dark side (after his turns in Paris, Je T'aime and Sin City). He looks so shifty and grubby most of the time. But when he later scrubs up and dons a beautiful polo neck he gets even creepier. Who would have thought that the wide eyed little Hobbit would make such a great perverted murderer?

Apart from that I haven't got many positive things to say about Maniac. I'm not convinced that there isn't a hint of misogyny going on here. I can see that Frank is a misogynist and it's fine to have a film about a misogynist (I really liked The Woman that had a similar character at its centre). But why did all of his victims have to be so characterless or unlikeable? The only one of his victims that I actually liked was a ginger lady who he meets in a chat room. She takes him back to her place, immediately strips off and starts to partake in a portion of horatio. I don't think that it's a spoiler to say that she dies soon after. I'm not sure whether she was supposed to be likeable because that title seems to have gone to another character, Anna (Nora Arnezeder). But she's so self-obsessed and shallow that I couldn't have cared less about her. The whole depiction of women left a bit of a nasty taste in the mouth.

If you're a serial killer film then you've got to go toe-to-toe with Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and American Psycho (the book). Henry works so well because it gives you a likeable character, in the form of Becky. If you haven't seen Henry  I won't spoil it, but the power of the film comes from Henry's relationship with Becky. As I've mentioned above, there is no Becky equivalent in Maniac. American Psycho is brilliant because it escalates continually over the course of the book. Maniac doesn't. The loop goes roughly along the lines of: find girl, stalk girl, kill girl, remove scalp, add scalp to a mannequin. This then repeats and repeats. There is a slight escalation by the end but by then it's too late. 

There's something else that irks me: there were moments during the killings that made me laugh. The killings in Henry didn't make me laugh. (Conversely, Man Bites Dog made me laugh a lot, and then cleverly pulled the rug out from under me.) Plus there are a couple of jump moments, one that is just a dreaded loud noise. This all adds up to a film that doesn't have the right tone to be a studied insight into the mind of a killer.

Maniac. The film's called Maniac. The title suggests to me, a person who is savage and completely out of control. There is one moment that can be classed as pretty brutal. One stabbing goes on for a fair while, (the only time when I thought that the title was apt) but even that could have gone on longer. I wanted to come out of Maniac thinking that it was really uncomfortable viewing, with some fairly extreme violence. I wanted to feel the need to look away from the screen due to the unrelenting violence. Yes, I was expecting a horror film. Instead, I came out bored. 

The only thing that Maniac adds to the genre is the use of POV shots (one shot involving a car crash is really impressive as is a little nod to the cover of the original film). But that's it really. Elijah Wood comes out of the whole grimy affair quite well and I'd be quite happy to see him in other horror outings. But you might be better off watching the original Maniac instead. I wish I had.

If you like this you could also try:
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, American Psycho (the book), Drive.

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