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
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 up coming exhibit. Like in the original Frank see's 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).