I sit here writing this review listening to Goodbye, Horses by Q Lazzarus on repeat. You know the song I’m talking about: made famous by the iconic “I’d fuck me” scene by Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs. Maniac employs this song in another unforgettable scene that is too good to be true. Thank you, good movie-making. Filmed entirely from the killer’s perspective, this remake of the 1980’s classic is a rare treat reminiscent of throw-back slasher films.
I know remakes can sometimes be considered creative laziness, but some films definitely deserve an updated remake. Others, like cult classics, should not be duplicated like the latest stab at Carrie. Please. That one was doomed from the beginning. This one on the other hand embraces the celebrated aspects of the original instead of competing with it. The psychedelic music used throughout the film gives homage to the era of slasher films while giving the movie a hauntingly dark and melancholy sense as the camera pans the lonely streets of New York City. The City is full of people, yet it is hard to fight the looming sensibility of loneliness that is heavily carried throughout the film.
This film is not just about a mad murder spree, but about the madman himself. Elijah Wood plays Frank- a mannequin store owning psychopath who stalks his victims in the night and scalps them for his collection of mannequins. Frank is the epitome of a true psychopath with horrifying mental problems. I don’t think the reason he kills is entirely sexual like some other serial killers, although that is an obvious theme here. He has a definite mommy complex that is revealed through flashbacks and vivid hallucinations. Even though Elijah Wood is only shown on screen a handful of times, his performance is both spell-bounding and memorable. The first person point of view is fantastic here. The sometimes shaky camera does not give you the feel of over-used “home-video/found-footage” horror movies. Rather, it gives insight into the character through beautiful details like his dirty fingernails and scabbed and bruised hands as Frank overpowers his victims in gory enchantment.
The opening death scene is gruesome and totally unique. The beautiful woman’s scream is cut short as she is stabbed up through the throat into her mouth. As ghastly as that sounds, the most horrifying part is the sadness in her eyes, almost as if we see the life passing before her. Each murder is totally different and never repetitive. We even get back to good ol’ strangling here, which I find to be most shocking given the personal touch and intimacy between assailant and victim. The only scene where the camera is actually on Frank is after a particularly gruesome murder, almost as if he is having an out of body experience. The attention to detail caught by director and writer alike is highly commendable. Alexandre Aja, who wrote the screenplay for French sensation Haute Tension, wrote the screenplay for this one as well. Knowing this, it is easy to expect a psychological and bloody massacre.
The ending is controversial in terms of it being considered a good or bad ending. In my opinion, I think it is amazing. It is so nasty, disgusting, and brutal; a true testament for what is in the mind of Frank, the psychopath. The way that the camera plunges us into the life of this killer is both brilliant and surreal. Frank draws us into his madhouse and doesn’t let go. This film tops the list for horror films of 2013. Prepare to be captivated from beginning to end.
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