Reviewed by Andy
My strongest memory of Joe Spinelli’s 1980 opus is a scene involving Tom Savini, a windshield and a shotgun – whilst impactful and with great effects, it was always a little out of place in the tale of a disturbed individual stalking women and attaching their scalps to the mannequins while having one-sided conversations with his dead abusive mother.
Let’s kick off with a sort of reverse spoiler – that scene is not present in this remake, which comes from the team behind P2 and takes the bold move of presenting itself as the point of view of maniac Frank. If not used well it could come across as a gimmick, but Frank Khalfoun uses it to brilliant advantage, and Elijah Wood puts in an excellent performance despite only being seen in reflections, photographs and occasional hallucinations. Nora Arnezeder, seen most recently in Safe House, is credible and strong as artist Anna (played in the original by Caroline Munro) and the supporting cast help keep the film feeling grounded and real.
The experience of writers Alexandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur on previous films like Haute Tension is evident, and the result is a film that is taut and gripping throughout. It doesn’t hold back either (there were walkouts at Cannes) but doesn’t sensationalise its violence – Frank is doing it as a means to an end, not for the act in itself. That only draws the viewer further in, and when the credits roll it’s almost a relief to be released from the hold the film skillfully exerts.
Brilliantly disturbing, Maniac is not just better than the original but one of the films of the year. Steel yourself for a journey into the real dark side of human psychology, and you’ll be rewarded with a unique and engrossing experience that you won’t forget anytime soon *****