"Maniac" The 80's Horror Remake Starring Elijah Wood


The grimy and disturbing 80s horror classic gets a new look with help from modern horror icon Alexandre Aja.  Adding to the intrigue is the casting of Frodo himself, Elijah Wood, in the role of the disturbed knife-wielding manic Frank.

The story is relocated from the streets of New York to Los Angeles and Frank is more of a presentable and attractive guy than the sweaty overweight version played by Joe Spinell in the original. Another major difference from the original is that the whole film is shot entirely from Frank's point of view.  Although we do see his face a number of times in reflections.  All of these changes work in the retelling of a man who stalks the streets murdering and scalping women.  The up close and graphic opening scene sets the tone for what shapes up to be a quality remake.

Like a lot of severely deranged killers, Frank has some unresolved mommy issues and takes it out on his victims.  With his mother now dead he owns and operates her Mannequin store.  This is where he meets Anna, a photographer who conveniently enough is shooting mannequins for an upcoming exhibit.  Like in the original Frank sees Anna as his last chance to live a somewhat normal life.  Although it doesn't take long before he is back on the streets stalking his next victim.  The P.O.V shooting style gets us a glimpse into Frank's disturbed mind, from his hallucinations and anxieties to his loneliness and despair.  Director Franck Khalfoun's use of mirrors and reflections and the way his shots are composed are rare for a horror movie.  For its budget and everything that could go wrong, they really made quite the film.

Elijah Wood's portrayal of Frank also gets high marks as he doesn't force anything, and doesn't play "insane" but is just a normal guy, who just happens to murder people.  A lot like Anthony Perkins in "Psycho".  He is a frightened and lonely guy who suffered terrible emotional and physical abuse from his mother as a child.  All of this repressed anger and rage surfaces at night when he must go out and kill his "mother" over and over again.  After every kill, he takes their scalp and some piece of clothing and puts it on one of the mannequins in his bedroom. In the end, his thin cover of sanity is blown with Anna, and his mannequin friends want a piece of him too.  

This version of "Maniac" is currently available on Netflix Streaming.  You can read my review of the original film Maniac (1980).

"The Pact" Cannot be Broken


A sleeper hit in 2012, "The Pact" directed by Nicholas McCarthy melds many common horror themes into one thoroughly haunting and creepy movie.  Actress Caity Lotz, who looks a lot like Lindsay Lohan but without the baggage, plays Annie, who comes back home to attend the funeral of her estranged mother only to find the house she grew up in is still hiding secrets.

The film opens with Annie's sister, a recovering drug addict, already at the house and Skyping with her daughter.  The next day as Annie arrives (on a motorcycle) her sister is nowhere to be found.  Thinking she is just on another bender, Annie doesn't put much thought into it.  The house itself just has an altogether uneasy feel to it with its overabundance of religious artifacts and of course, it's old and creaky doors and floorboards.  There are also times when Annie is roaming around in the dark investigating noises.  All these scenes feel necessary to build the suspense of the scenes to come and really don't feel forced like many other films do.  After her mothers funeral, Annie meets up with her cousin, who is looking after her little niece.  They end up staying overnight at the house but vanish when Annie comes looking for them in the morning.

When Annie suffers a frightening incident of her own at the house she goes to the police and enlists the help of Officer Creek to further investigate.  What they find is quite disturbing and tries to offer some explanation as to what's been going on.  Annie does some investigating on her own and with some ghostly help unearths some troubling family history.  She also gets some help from Stevie a girl she knew from high school, who just happens to be blind, and a medium, and looks extremely pale.  Weird I know but just go with it.  With the help of some supernatural forces, Annie must deal with the very real threat that lives within the walls of the house. 

"The Pact" is well made for its budget, even if we've seen some of this stuff before.  The story is well structured and thought out, with some wonderfully creepy characters and tense feeling throughout. A sequel has been announced but don't hold your breath.