Maniac -2013-


Directed by Franck Khalfoun. 89 mins.

 Worth my time? Yes. (Seen with a friend at the Arena Theater in Hollywood)

 If nothing else, Franck Khalfoun’s take on William Lustig’s 1980 slatterhouse flick Maniac demonstrates that the more interesting horror re-makes are based on films that weren’t all that good in the first place. For instance, Christian Nyby and Howard Hawks’ 1951 production of The Thing was decent enough, but it doesn’t stand out from its contemporaries in the genre. Its first remake in 1982, John Carpenter’s The Thing, improved the formula and is my favorite horror movie of all time. However, Matthijs van Heijningen’s 2011 prequel/reboot was a boring haunted house flick. It had no aspirations to improve or reinterpret the material, and it suffered immensely as a result.

 Don’t even get me started on Gus Van Sant’s Psycho.

 Anyhow, my point is that Lustig’s Maniac is filthy fun, but it’s no classic. And while this update isn’t all too great either, it doesn’t desecrate its namesake. Plus, in spite of its flimsy plot, it’s a very technically impressive film.

 Elijah Wood’s performance as Kevin in Sin City showed that the meek Hobbit / kid who dies in The Ice Storm could play a psychopath something fierce. Luckily, he also brings the goods to this film. Wood is seldom onscreen (as most of the movie takes plays from his point of view), but his voice and delivery is spot-on. Nora Arnezeder, a relative newcomer from France, plays the ill-fated (or is she?) artist whom Wood assists with an art project while he’s not busy with his own project of scalping ladies all around Los Angeles.

 Why would anyone want to make friends with the owner of a mannequin store? Creeps, eew.

 Two tips of a hypothetical hat go to cinematographer Maxime Alexandre and editor “Baxter” (that’s his full credit) for keeping the viewer squarely in the head of a, well, maniac. The off-the-beaten-path take on LA feels a lot like Drive, as does the soundtrack by “Rob” (what’s with these fucking credits?). Plus, making Wood show up in reflections and mirrors without seeing the camera must have been a pain in the ass.

 Again, nothing groundbreaking in the story or character department, but I think Lustig and the late Joe Spinell would approve.

 (Seen and originally written on 2013-06-28)