Maniac exists for the sole purpose of shocking the audience.
The film, a remake of the low-budget 1980 thriller, is shot from from the perspective of a serial killer named Frank (Elijah Wood). He has mommy issues and runs a mannequin store. He meets a lovely young woman that shows some interest in his awkwardness. However, Frank harbors a dark secret. He can’t control himself around women and kills them at night to collect their hair for his mannequins. This new girl in his life only encourages his serial killer needs, and he begins stalking more and more women.
Maniac, out on DVD Oct. 15, wants to be artistic. It’s trying to do something new by using the serial killer’s POV to tell the story. In a world that makes sense, the filmmakers would have chosen this gimmick in order to give audiences a glimpse into a troubled mind. However, the movie is co-written and produced by Alexander Aja (The Hills Have Eyes), so you can bet everything in your wallet that the POV thing becomes a device to add more shock value. It’s used to make the film squeamish and disgusting and without morals.
I’m not saying every film needs a moral center or needs to be about a hero, but let’s not pretend that this POV thing was in the name of making great art. Martin Scorsese gave us more insight into a disturbed personality in films like Raging Bull and Taxi Driver without using childish gimmicks.
The reason Maniac doesn’t work is because there is no context for anything. The narrow film wants to wrap us up in the mind of a serial killer, but it can’t find an intelligent way to do that beyond simply making the camera exactly what he sees. This fails the entire premise of glimpsing a troubled mind. What the film then asks us to do is enjoy the same things this man does and be confused by his strange and mentally challenged world.
Director Franck Khalfoun tries to find ways out of his POV feature (painted him into a corner, I’m sure) by overusing mirrors to show us Elijah Wood. It’s used over and again, the trick becoming tiresome very fast.
Maniac is effective in the sense that it is a true horror film. Half the movie you don’t want to watch and there’s no chance ever pop the disc in again. There’s no entertainment value and no real artistic insight into anything. This is just a movie trying to provide shock and awe for the audience. It accomplishes little else.
The Maniac DVD special features include deleted scenes, a commentary track and a “making of” feature. The commentary is perhaps the most interesting item as it gives some insight into what Wood, director Khalfoun and producer Alix Taylor feel about their film and what this kind of flick is really worth.