Expect a lot of staring into mirrors.

It’s not often that gimmick movies are good. An exception would be Memento, the movie famously known for having a plot that goes in reverse chronological order, but most films can’t transcend their gimmicks (i.e. found footage flicks). Unfortunately, Maniac is no exception to this general rule.

Maniac‘s gimmick is that the film is shot entirely from the killer’s point of view. Rather than typical serial killer/horror movies that follow the victims (and inevitable sole survivor), this one is from the perspective of the killer, all the time. It’s a bit like the scenes from Being John Malkovich where John Cusack is inside the famous actor’s head and sees everything Malkovich sees.

Elijah Wood plays Frank, the seriously disturbed man who has  a penchant for stalking women late at night and then scalping them with an oversized Bowie knife. Although saying Wood “plays” the character is quite generous, considering that the cinematographer does most of the legwork and Wood comes in to do voice-overs and stare at himself in the mirror.  Speaking of which, the film suffers a bit from a lot of mirror soul-searching. Frank never meets a mirror he doesn’t look at and stare pensively at himself. Wood was probably contractually obligated to have his likeness appear in seven-plus reflective mirror scenes.

The film starts out with a lot of promise. Frank cruises the streets looking for a target, and it’s chilling to be seeing through the eyes of a killer with his unwavering gaze and whispered intentions. The first murder is an especially gruesome piece of work (definitely not for the squeamish) and then Frank leaves and the opening credits roll to an almost Drive-esque synth soundtrack. It’s a brazen beginning, but the film devolves shortly afterwards into never-ending murder sequences that lose most of their impact as the film continues. There’s only so many scenes of point-of-view scalping that one can take before they become desensitized.

The gimmick of Maniac would work better as a short. The first ten minutes of the film are a chilling exercise and a brief glimpse into the impenetrable psychology of a murder (hint: the movie doesn’t really explain anything, except that Frank had a crappy childhood, so that explains killing countless women, y’know?). But the next hour of the film is just more of the same – disturbing voyeurism, graphic mutilation, and a revolving door of victims to up the body count. It will satiate gore-aficionados’ blood lust, but will be unsatisfying and rotten tripe for anyone else.

Maniac uses an innovative gimmick, but gimmicks on their own can’t save a film.

Grade: D+

Sidenote: Maniac is a remake of a 1980s slasher flick and pays homage to the original in several scenes. Look out for a recreation of the original’s cover art.


One Response to Maniac

  1. Beer Movie says:

    Nice review. I haven’t seen this ( I am not particularly squeamish, but a little concerned about the gore levels), but it has been getting pretty positive buzz basically everywhere else.

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