When Elijah Wood was first cast as Frank Zito in the remake of William Lustig's Maniac, people were mad. Not just regular remake mad but like…I'm going to kick a baby then claw my face off and eat it mad. As usual I played devil's advocate and slapped those people in the face. Then, I calmly reminded them that Elijah Wood was actually really good at being an understated creepy psychopath.
Why didn't they remember his unsettling turn as Kevin in Sin City? And not only that--but who can admit that his performance in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind as a weird, panty stealing idiot did NOT fully creep them out? My thoughts exactly.
So that's why I was intrigued by the Maniac remake. Not only because I wanted to see just how much creepier Elijah Wood could get, but also because I felt like there were so many other layers of the original Maniac that had yet to be explored. Luckily, the remake does explore those layers---but it still leaves things intentionally fuzzy as well which is both frustrating and neat. Apparently Frank Zito is a case that will never be cracked---
and after a glass of wine or three to get my mind off the heavy duty scalping…I think I'm OK with that.
As far as plot goes--the remake of Maniac stays fairly close to the original. Frank Zito is a disturbed man attempting to lead a normal life but hiding his true passion in his sadly outdated and cramped apartment. During the day he refurbishes mannequins--which by the way is proof that there IS something more terrifying than a mannequin----a mannequin hospital. At night, Frank kills women, scalps them and then tacks their bloody scalps onto mannequins and sleeps with them.
All the while entertaining us with his flashbacks of seeing his prostitute mother do bad things. After meeting a super arty photographer named Anna, Frank's scalping desires seem to hit the high road and his maniac tendencies start to really get out of control…
I was glad to see almost immediately that the remake kept that same seedy feeling of the original film. Swapping out 1980's New York for California circa now, the Maniac remake still has the power to make you want to take a shower. I attribute this to the fantastic styling of Frank's apartment. Dated, cramped, and swarming with flies stuck onto the rotting scalps of his victims--Frank's apartment is like the anus of the devil. I also loved the switch in professions for Frank---what better way to really freak people out with the mannequins than actually having Frank's job be about running a mannequin store?
Almost the entire film is shot in POV style which is at first jarring but then highly symbolic and fitting.
It's very Enter the Void---and is also a really nice nod to Slasher films in general. Peeping Tom meets Enter the Void? Hmmm yes, that sounds delightful. The only time we get to look at Elijah's mug is when he stares into mirrors, which, actually happens quite a bit (the symbolism kills me!)
There's also a brief moment where he's stabbing his victim and suddenly we're inexplicably just looking at him from the outside with no reflection in sight.
What's that about? Could that scene have been implying that Frank was transported briefly out of his body and looking at himself and his behavior from the outside? Maybe!
I will admit that the gore level in this remake is top notch. As someone who prefers not to witness a full on scalping---I fought the desire to die several times during this. The scalping is so graphic that I think I heard a rumor that it was real.
Just kidding the blood is too shiny so it's not but really----really traumatic stuff here. Although Alexandre Aja only appears to have produced and written Maniac--the the gore in this is quite indicative of his style. Head trauma, shiny blood and really creative face wounds are all over the place.
As far as remakes go, Maniac is pretty strong. It took the important elements of the original and then added in some spice here and there. It also seemed to give us an even closer glance into Frank Zito thanks to the POV tactic. What it didn't do however was do a good job of explaining Frank's mother's continued presence. I felt that in the original I could really understand Frank's issues and how they correlated to his mother. Here though we're treated to some late night romps, Frank hiding in the closet and then a fuzzy scene of him brushing her hair. Her death isn't really touched on and the scene with Anna's agent is therefore kind of odd.
Elijah is as I predicted insanely creepy. The mannequins are insanely creepy (and evidently horny when left alone)
And the fact that this girl chose "Goodbye Horses' as mood music is insanely creepy.
Doesn't she know the kinds of bad things that happen when the song 'Goodbye Horses' is played?
Overall, I think the Maniac remake did me proud. What do you think?