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  • agroeddie

Maniac (2012)

Updated: Jul 8, 2020

I am starting this blog because I felt I should make something out of watching a horror movie a day almost every day for many years now. Also because of the pandemic. The intention is to write something about (almost) every movie I watch, maybe recommending it or maybe warning you to stay away from it. The posts will be short, and I won't be academic in any way; I will just write about specific things that, for me, made the film worth watching or not. Entertainment will be the criteria. My first post in this blog is longer than my future ones, promised.

I’ll start with a remake because I enjoy remakes a lot. Yep.

Franck Khalfoun’s 2012 remake of Maniac, the original version of which was directed by William Lustig, in 1980 is a movie worth watching. Lustig’s film was received with very hard words from not only mainstream film critics but also a big part of the horror community when it first came out in 1980. They deemed Lustig’s Maniac a disgusting and simple depiction of violence, with no story and no character the audience could relate to. If nowadays we still have movies that objectify their female characters (we have tons), note that Maniac was criticized for being too misogynistic…40 years ago. I believe most critics were right when they said that Maniac is absurdly violent and simple, but, to a certain point, it’s what makes this movie (and its remake) worth watching. If this can (or should) be understood by the audience as an apology of violence, I will not discuss now. I will talk about the depiction of violence against women throughout the history of horror in future posts, for sure. For now, I will focus on Maniac being a very entertaining and cool slasher. I use the word 'cool' because Khalfoun’s 2012 remake has a very hipster aesthetic to it, created by the first-person point-of-view, the electronic soundtrack and maybe the fact that Elijah Wood (hipster horror movie recurring figure) is the main character.

1980’s Maniac is a very dirty and crude horror movie, that tells you little but shows you a lot. With time, William Lustig’s Maniac became a cult movie for being true to itself and for leading the path to many other directors who, like Lustig, sometimes want to tell a story more real than crowd-pleasing. From the 2012 remake, I was expecting great things after knowing Alexandre Aja (High Tension (2003), The Hills Have Eyes (2006) … go check those out if you haven’t) was producing it. And it did not let me down.

Maniac (2012) has a great aura, and many factors come together to create a wonderful scenery as creepy as they come. Khalfoun’s Maniac, like the original, shows the life of Frank, a psychopath man who is deeply traumatized by his childhood memories and goes out at night for killing sprees. A plot like 90% of the slashers out there, but still Maniac manages to follow a path very few other slashers follow. There is no feel-good moment; no comedy bits; no final girl; no uprising from the (at first) weak and scared protagonist who overcomes adversity and faces the violent killer at the end and wins. What there is though, is gore (really good one as a matter of fact) and sadness. In Maniac, the weak protagonist who must overcome adversity is the killer, Frank, who is plagued with bloody hallucinations and lives constantly trying to fight his urge to kill. The horror in Maniac is not only gory and physical, but also existential. Frank is trying to fit in the world by suppressing what he truly is. The movie is shot from the point of view of the killer and we only see Elijah Wood’s face in reflections. This is not your usual slasher. The viewer is literally seeing through the eyes of the killer, so you know what’s going to happen. The camera only takes a third-person view when the actual murder happens, maybe trying to show us that Frank feels these actions (the murders) to take place outside of his consciousness, they come from a deeper place and he has no way of stopping them; he is just left to sit and watch, like us.

Generally, you’ll watch a remake because you really enjoyed the ‘original’ film. When you’re sitting down to watch a remake, you already know how the movie will end but there’s still something that makes you want to see if the director loved the original movie like you did, if he is going to introduce new elements or twists, if these agree with the original universe of the first movie and mostly if he or she ends up being “worthy” of the challenge or not.

Just like Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead (2013), Frank Khalfoun’s Maniac is a remarkable remake that I believe is worth watching because you see he really appreciated and understood the original film, and adapted it to our times to create a very entertaining and aesthetically pleasing flick.

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