A remake of the gnarly 1980 horror, Maniac is your nasty slasher film with a twist – it’s shot primarily in the POV of the deranged killer Frank, played here by Elijah Wood, wide-eyed and feral.
It’s directed by Franck Khalfoun, who made his debut with another horror featuring a deranged and wide-eyed killer – P2. Here, Franck has delved deep into the psychological to really tap into the heightened reality of a psychopath to produce a very uncomfortable experience.
Minus a few noteworthy beats, he doesn’t quite pull of the full experience – though this is largely in part due to the use of conventional film making breaking the idea of POV. It just robs the film of the intended effect in places, making it more cinematic.
Elijah Wood as Frank is an inspired choice, I must admit, though the script by Alexandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur, with its clunky dialogue and meandering plot restrict him from fully disappearing into the character. There are moments where he shines and moments where the script causes unintentionally laughter.
He finds some lovely chemistry with French Artist Anna – played by Nora Arnezeder- who finds an unlikely bond with Frank. It’s this relationship that drives the rest of the film and Arnezeder slowly, over the course of the story, reveals different and intriguing sides to Anna that add to her character.
Maniac’s high-tension gonzo gore is scored to pulse-pounded perfection by musician ROB. It’s moody synths capture the seediness of Los Angeles, the escalating madness of Frank and the voyeurism of the hunt, sometimes even escalating dramatically like the climax of an opera. It’s something you’ve got to hear with the best sound system or pair of headphones.
Maniac has passages where everything comes together and clicks. For me though it’s just a script that lacks intrigue, suspense and any kind of drive after a while.
J’s Verdict – ☆☆