Thursday, June 20, 2013

Maniac (2012)

Remake of the William Lustig helmed sleaze fest stars Elijah Wood as Frank Zito a nice guy with mother issues and a thing for mannequins with human scalps.

The original film was a sick wake up call to horror lovers that opened with a sequence that not only blew away make up man Tom Savini in a cameo, but also the audience who weren't prepared for that level of graphic violence (I was there on opening night I heard the audience screaming in disbelief and horror), while the new film has an opening sequence that made many in the audiences audibly gasp, the new film goes for a different kind of horror and so really can't be compared to what went before.

The film follows Wood’s Frank as he becomes more and more unhinged roughly a year after the death of his mother. Trolling the streets he seizes women, scalps them and attached them to the mannequins which he restores. He finds solace in the attention of Anna, a photographer who is attracted to the uniqueness of the  mannequins. However the fly in the ointment are the warring sides of Frank personality. Will he find sanity with Anna?

Not bloody likely.

More sleazy than scary and more unpleasant than frightening, this film has a disturbing undercurrent that is hard to dismiss. Even as you’re laughing at the film, part of the film is working on your psyche and making you feel very uneasy. Its this sense of unease that lifts the film up from its numerous flaws to make it a film that is worth at least trying and better than it has any right to be.

To be completely honest, objectively as unsettling as the film is it isn’t very good. As I said above the first person POV is distraction and far from fair. Frequently we are not really looking where Wood would be and the angles are not always right. There is also a large problem in that the distance where Wood is supposed to be doesn’t match up to where the people around him are. For example in the opening sequence I doubt very much that the girl would not sense or hear Wood standing inches from her. It’s not believable. Actually the whole POV thing pulls the film down, and had they just shot this conventionally it would have played better.

Equally troublesome is the script which seems to be walking the fine line between horror and unintentional comedy. The POV structure of the film effectively removes Wood from the film, despite our always being with him,  and leaves only his vocal performance, which isn't enough to over come the stilted dialog and questionable sequences. It must be noted that Wood is excellent and creepy as Frank, and when we can actually see him he’s heartbreaking and sad, but without the visual cues that a full body performance gives the purple prose and the you only hear this sort of thing in a horror film nature of the dialog makes it all very silly.

I’d like to smack the writer and director for coming up with several sequences that make zero sense (even allowing for the internal nature of the film). In one of the most flagrant sequences Wood sees a woman doing acrobatics in a window and goes inside the building. He then hides in a locker when the woman turns and leaves, he’s suddenly outside the building following her and her friends way too closely. He then stalks her into the subway and into a station where he falls way behind, yet manages to catch up? It makes zero sense.

To be honest, most of the film doesn’t makes any sense- and yet the film sits with you. It sets up shop in your belly and makes you feel unwell. Standing outside of the screening a couple of us were talking. We all had reservations but none of us could shake the film and the feeling that the film had kicked us in the gut. It’s as if someone spiked our drinks with some sort of toxin. The result of the film making is you feel something, really feel something this film. This puts it, despite its serious flaws, above the heap of most of the other horror films being churned out today. Hell writing this up some 24 hours after seeing the film I can still feel the unease that accompanied my train ride home.

Worth the time to see it.

(For those wondering about the gore, there is some, mostly scalping. If memory serves its less violently graphic that the original)

1 comment:

  1. wow, for the first few paragraphs i was jealous of how well and seemingly easily you expressed things that i loved about the film. it seemed you felt the same.

    Then you skewered it for things that didn't make sense. i see what you're saying in all cases, but i think it's really negligible, like you said, in the face of the feeling it leaves you with. and also arguable. Yeah, it does seem some of the kills are a bit too convenient...but maybe he's just that good at slinking around.

    what's funny is how differently we view the use of POV. i thought it was brilliant, essential even in making it stand out, and explained in my review (insert shameless plug HERE:

    i think it's one of the things that makes it so effectively creepy; seeing Frank's leering and victims' and potential victims' reactions to it from his people coming in and out of phase from his jittery, disturbed state.

    I can't compare to the original (it's on the way to my place) but will say there are some very gruesome gore scenes -- both in the fun escape and repulsive way.

    Anyway, that was fun -- let's do it again some time. 'my place' next time!