Maniac (1980) – 1 out of 5
I committed a sin in the world of films, in that I watched a remake before the original…or, at least, that’s a sin according to the aspiring screenwriter/guy who makes the fries at my local Burger King. Recently, I watched the remake of this film that starred Elijah Wood and, despite some issues, I really dug the film. It was eerie, unsettling and Wood surprised me at how well he can play a psychopath. I wanted to watch the original before I watched that one but, thanks to my daily routine (for example, fighting a horde of ninjas trying to take over the world—you know, usual stuff), it just didn’t happen. But now, thanks to the wonders of a ninja-free day, I was able to watch it. All I can say it that I’m glad I watched the remake first.
|The look a commenter makes just before they leave a comment saying I'm worse|
than Hitler for saying I watched a remake first.
Frank Zito (Joe Spinell) has some mommy issues and it’s made him a little loose on the nut without a wrench in sight to help him tighten down. After years of abuse, Zito has grown up to be a man that murders without remorse and scalps the woman he kills. And it gets worse…he nails the scalps to mannequins and uses these objects of horror to carry on discussions with his late mother. Soon, Zito meets a photographer named Anna and it appears that she could possibly be the woman to tame the beast...or will she be just another victim?
|"It's called 'Pedobear.' The guy at the store said it matched my mustache."|
Since I thought the remake was done well, I had hoped the original would have been decent because of the myth that the remake is always worse than the original. However, like some myths, this one proved to be less than true. Another myth that proved untrue? My ability to fight ninjas...seriously, they kick my ass every day.
I didn’t find the film to be very scary and, unlike the remake, I didn’t find much about it to be unsettling. I just found it boring. Even with its issues, Elijah Wood really made the killer disturbing but the only thing disturbing about this 1980 original was that Joe Spinell just looked like a pervert…a pervert but nowhere near a man who is capable of killing and scalping a woman. In theory, having a killer that doesn't look like a killer could possibly work but, in this one, it didn't...at least, not for me.
|"The minute I grew this mustache and put on these glasses a cop showed up at|
my door and told me I was just tried and convicted as a sex offender."
That was the number one thing I that kept me from getting into this movie: Joe Spinell. His performance is flat and devoid of emotion—even when he is having his Psycho moments and having a conversation with his imaginary mother. Spinell just didn’t look the part of a crazed killer. Maybe it was the pedostache or the hair or his rotund figure but I just couldn’t take him seriously as an antagonist in a horror/thriller.
It gets worse as the terrifying moments in the film aren’t very terrifying (the synth music just failed at creating tension; way to go Casio!) but the movie did have an awesome gory moment that pretty much became the only saving grace of the film. Gore-crafter legend Tom Savini makes a cameo appearance and dies in a spectacular way as Zito blows his head off with a shotgun. The dummy and rig that Savini used was amazing and frighteningly realistic. It was so good that the late Gene Siskel ran out of the theater, disgusted beyond belief.
|"This has been a great date. The only thing that could possibly ruin it would|
be if I was killed by a shotgun blast to my face...but what are the odds of that?"
|"Dammit, the odds were better than I had originally anticipated!"|
To be honest, I’m surprised that the film was actually remade because watching Maniac I saw nothing about it that stood out (aside from the shotgun death) or made an argument that it needed to be re-imagined (well, maybe because it sucks—I guess that’s a reason for a remake). The only interesting thing about the movie is that the song “Maniac” from Flashdance was originally made for this film (because the filmmakers wanted a theme song) but abandoned the idea and the song was later re-tooled. Now I can’t help but seeing the entire shotgun death scene set to that iconic 80s song…that…actually could have made the song and movie better.