This is my first visit to the cinema this year after the usual New Year slump in half decent films being released. As is typical with adult rated horror it hasn’t been given a wide general release so I had to travel quite far to a cinema that was actually showing it. I know that this film is a remake but if I have seen the original it is long forgotten so I won’t have any way of judging this against the original which will be probably in this film’s favour. This is a very tense violent thriller and it is almost completely shown from the point of view of the killer. This gives Elijah Wood surprisingly little screen time but there is always a strong sense of him being there and the audience being with him.
The film starts with Frank (Elijah Wood) stalking a victim as she leaves a night club with a friend. We also hear his mumbled thoughts as he follows her and sees her leave her friend and get hassled by a lech before she spots Frank watching her and she runs away while Frank mutters that he knows where she lives and he drives off. Frank gets to her apartment building first and cuts the power to the lights on her floor which allows him the chance to sneak up on her while she opens her door. She turns to see him and is about to scream but he shoves a kitchen knife through her throat, into her mouth and up into her brain. She seems to die right away then Frank cuts off her scalp with unrealistic haste. He takes the scalp back to his home in a shop that sells and restores old shop mannequins and staples the scalp onto the head of one of the mannequins. In his madness this turns the mannequin into the woman he just killed.
His next victim is a woman called Lucie (Megan Duffy) he meets through an online dating service and rather than stalking her through the city they have date and he takes her back to her apartment and she gives him oral sex. Frank kills her right away regrets it seeming to blame his actions on some other part of his mind and giving us a glimpse of a nice guy trapped in the mind of a maniac who cannot control his impulse to kill women and cut of their scalps. Of course her scalp goes onto a mannequin too and we see him interacting with the mannequins as if the first one is jealous of the latest one. We also start to get hints of Frank having serious mummy issues.
This would purely be dreary tale of gory madness if we didn’t have someone to care about and that comes in the form of a photographer Anna (Nora Arnezeder) who is taking photographs of mannequins instead of models. Anna is fascinated by his mannequins with their different styles. This is when we learn that the shop belonged to his mother who died the year before. Anna has an idea of renting some of his mannequins to use to complement her photographs at her gallery exhibition. This means that Frank get to see Anna see quite a bit and starts to develop hopes of a relationship that does not end in a brutal murder.
This is a very tense film and I think the gimmick of showing everything through the eyes of Frank really works at sticking us in his head with a sense of being helpless to stop the atrocities that happen. This lets us empathise with the feeling of lack of control that Frank expresses after the second murder. There are hints that a lot of Frank’s problems come from his anger at his relationship with his mother and this comes through in flash backs and Frank’s attacks of blinding pain whenever she is brought up. This film is very well shot and the acting is pretty convincing. It has an interesting electronic soundtrack that I think refers back to the time of the original film. It’s not a film to watch for good feelings or happy endings but if you want a gory tale of madness this is a good film.
- Rotten Tomatoes
- Maniac (2012) – dir. Franck Khalfoun (gcudzzz.wordpress.com)
- A cut above most horror remakes (guardian.co.uk)