Thursday, October 24, 2013

Maniac DVD Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
In this 21st century Jack the Ripper story set in present-day Los Angeles, Frank (Elijah Wood, The Lord of the Rings) leads a deceptively peaceful life. To the outside world, he's a withdrawn and somewhat eccentric owner of a mannequin store. But his quiet fa├žade masks an inner rage that forces him to brutally kill and scalp the women who get too close to him.  This is a remake of William Lustig and Joe Spinell's 1980 cult classic of the same name, and it was written by Aja Alexandre, the screenwriter of The Hills Have Eyes, High Tension and Mirrors. The film is an intimate, visually daring, psychologically complex and profoundly horrific trip into the downward spiraling nightmare of a killer and his victims.  Maniac is a particularly gory flick, and quite a departure for star Elijah Wood, best known for playing the Hobbit Frodo in the Lord of the Rings films.

Film (1 1/2 out of 5 stars)

Frank (Elijah Wood) is the proprietor of a mannequin store. He attempts to lead a normal life, even attempting online dating. Frank has deep seeded psychological issues and spends a great deal of time and effort burying his rage. When his dark side comes out he is a brutal murderer of young women. After he stalks and kills his victims, Frank will often scalp the women. Back home he creates a twisted world using his mannequins and pieces of his victims.

A pretty young photographer named Anna (Nora Anezeder) takes an interest in Franck's mannequins and an obsession quickly develops. Frank's complex balance of good and evil in his everyday life is threatened as his feelings for Anna bring out more dark in him and no one is safe.

Although I typically enjoy all types of horror flicks and have no problems watching zombie's devour mankind, Maniac was a little too gory for my taste. The scalping was just to gross, which I understand was the filmmaker's intent. I like the kind of gore that doesn't make the viewer squirm. Elijah Wood is beyond convincing as the disturbed killer. 

I assume that he was afraid of being type-cast as a lovable hobbit and took the role that was the farthest thing from that he could find. While he nailed the part of creepy and evil, I think seeing him as Frodo Baggins might be somehow less authentic now. Between this and the television show "Wilfred", I'm starting to worry about Elijah Wood having more of a dark side than I'm comfortable with.
Video (2 1/2 out of 5 stars)

Maniac is presented to “preserve the Aspect Ratio of its Original Theatrical Exhibition. Enhanced for Widescreen TVs.” This is dark, gritty and has a grimy texture to much of the film. The amount of intentional versus unintended grain is unknown. With a muted color palette, it does have a realistic and dirty feel. The skin tones are accurate overall and the gore is authentic,especially when not fresh.
Audio (2 1/2 out of 5 stars)

Maniac is presented in 5.1 surround with English SDH or Spanish subtitles. There are plenty of blood curdling screams to remind you this is a slasher flick but also whispers and gasps that are easily discerned in this adequate audio presentation.
Extras (2 out of 5 stars) 

I enjoyed the making of documentary more than the movie itself but the commentary was hidden in the set up menu, not under bonus as expected.

  • The Making of Maniac – A Documentary with a behind the scenes look at all the gore, action and suspense of the Maniac remake. Includes cast and crew interviews.
  • Commentary with Star Elijah Wood, Director Franck Khalfoun and Executive Producer Alix Taylor found in the set up menu.
  • Deleted Scenes – Five deleted scenes that do not give the viewer the choice of selecting individually.
  • Poster Gallery – Three Maniac film posters.
  • Trailer
Summary (2 out of 5 stars)

I often try random films hoping to find an unknown hidden gem. Rarely this works out and I find an amazing film to add to my collection. In the case of Maniac, I struck out. It's too gory and Frank's “good” side was never likable enough to make him seem like anything but a monster. The first person POV was interesting but didn't heighten the drama. I found it distracting after a while. Elijah Wood is clearly a very good actor with the ability to convincingly play an innocent hobbit and a psychopathic serial killer. Now that I've seen the Maniac I realize that the latter was just something I didn't want to see as I had been hoping for a psychological thriller. Had I seen the original or even read the DVD back cover I would have realized that would not be the case. I hope I can still see Frodo as a good guy after this.

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