Friday, July 5, 2013

Maniac (2012)

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Out there, somewhere, a mannequin enthusiast is writing an angry letter about how this film is giving creepy, mannequin enthusiasts a bad name.

Maniac (2012) – 3 out of 5

Can a sweet faced hobbit with eyes the color of precious gems convincingly pull off being a serial killer with some severe mommy issues?


Imagine if that was the face he gave when he said he'd take the ring to Mordor.

The home of a perfectly stable human being.
Maniac is the remake of a 1980s film of the same name. Elijah Wood stars as Frank, a severely disturbed young man who works in the family mannequin refurbishing business (yep, apparently they exist). Frank had an emotionally abusive relationship with his mother and, has since, gown up to be a slightly—okay, more than slightly—disturbed young man. Frank lusts after woman before violently murdering them and scalping their hair off and…*ahem*…putting the scalp on one of his mannequins. One day, Frank meets a young artist named Anna (Nora Arnezder) who is interested in renting some of his mannequins for an art show. It isn’t long before he starts to lust after her and she starts to see Frank for who he really is…Cue foreboding music!

Of course, she's feeling up a mannequin right now herself, so who knows how
sane she is.

The most interesting thing about this film is the fact nearly the entire film is shot from the first person perceptive of Frank. Rarely does the film venture into the third person realm and mostly stays right behind Frank’s eyeballs. This allows us to hear Frank’s inner monologue but allows us to get a real, horrifyingly visceral look at the violence he brings to his victims and really makes the story extremely uncomfortable to sit through. However, this brings up the difficulty of actually getting to see our star—a star that, nonetheless, helped end the reign of an evil burning eyeball. Through the use of reflections in mirrors and such, we get to see Wood (could that sentence be taken the wrong way? Nah).

Okay...there may have been some things we didn't need to see in the first
person perspective.

Originally, I thought this use of a first person perspective was going to be a gimmick that would have worn out its welcome and become grating within the first few minutes. Thankfully, the filmmakers found a way to keep it fresh and stopped it from becoming an annoyance. This is mostly done thanks to the idea that having a slasher/horror film done through the eyes of the killer really helps keep the attention drawn to what is occurring in the story rather than the gimmick itself. And, like I stated earlier, it makes all the kill scenes even that much more difficult to watch as you are no longer a “fly on the wall” experiencing these death sequences like in a mom and pop-style of horror film. Instead, you are the killer and you are watching your own handiwork, in a certain sense. This film really made you feel like you are experiencing the terror in ways that so many “found footage” films failed at attempting—Maniac actually made you feel like your were a part of it all.

It's like some strange reverse-GTA.  Where you have to see the horror from the
perspective of the pedestrians you hit.

The second thing this movie does very well is the frighteningly real gore effects. A lot of horror film can look terrible with their gore and it sometimes results in laughter from the audience and sometimes you get some good looking gore that, while may make you cringe out of the sheer gross factor, will still make you say, “I’m no doctor but I don’t think the human body contain 300,000 gallons of blood.” This film, on the other hand, has a very realistic approach to the gross stuff…and boy does it look convincing.

I'm not showing a screen cap of the, instead, enjoy a picture of what
appears to be a hobo dancing.

The only real downfall this film has is the story doesn’t really have much going on with it. While Elijah Wood is terrific in his “about to snap” psychotic performance, the story doesn’t offer up much development to this craziness and Frank’s growing level of obsession with Anna. Frank is pretty much out of his mind when we meet him and only REALLY gets truly fucked up in the head towards the final moments of the film. Granted, his build up to this point actually isn’t that bad but he goes from scary crazy to “I can taste the color yellow after I tear off your flesh” crazy in a matter of seconds. This sudden jump in insanity felt rushed, like the filmmakers were trying to cram in another 20 minutes of crazy stewing into a condensed three minute time-frame. 

Ever heard of a Real Doll?  In the long run, it's cheaper to buy one than be a psycho

This condensing also ends up hurting the element of Frank’s growing obsession with the artist Anna. While we see the two become friends, we don’t really see much of Frank’s fixation with her. Sure, we see that he thinks about her but it never hits the level and slow development it needed in order to make the graphic third act really hit home. Had a little more time been taking with Frank and his fondness of Anna—hell, even a little more time developing Anna would have helped (seriously, other than being an artist and having a boyfriend, we don’t learn much about her)—would have greatly aided the film and helped make Frank be an even more disturbing character.

" it true one can simply walk into Mordor?"

Maniac has some things working for it that makes it more unsettling, more intelligent and more realistic than most slasher films that hit the market. It avoids most horror film clich├ęs and tries to find its own niche to work with, I can respect that.  I also really enjoyed the throwback soundtrack that pays homage to the original and truck ton of other 80s slasher films with their unique synthesizer songs filling their audio track. While Elijah Wood surprisingly pulls off the psycho part well and the gore is so realistic that I quickly ran to IMDb to see if those female actresses are still working, the film fails in its plot and story. Both fall flat as there lacks a balance in the film’s pace and narrative. While the small body count is forgivable thanks to the growing psychotic behavior of the character Frank, the lack of any consistent growth with his relationship to Anna ends up hurting the potential this movie held.

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