Dare I say this is one of the best remakes we have so far? I have seen a load of crap and finally I found a beacon of retribution.
Maniac was a slasher film, made in 1980, directed by William Lustig, who was best known for the Maniac Cop films, and starred Joe Spinell who co-wrote the screenplay. What separates Maniac from other slasher films is that it dives deep into the mindset of the serial killer and it becomes much more deeper and psychological than the slashers of that time. Maniac is not what I call a great film though it's definitely original of the year it was made.
So I wasn't sure how the remake of this would turn out but I know it was bound to happen since the original wasn't a particularly memorable film. When I heard Elijah Wood would play the main role I was bit iffy about it but since he has played darker roles before I thought I'd give it a chance. And the result was incredibly awesome. Elijah Wood gave a superb effective performance and the visual artistic flare of French director Franck Khalfoun adds so much more to the film. Complete with a catchy 80's-like synth soundtrack, stylish visuals, and good performance by the leads, this is definitely a major step up from original.
The Story: Frank Zito, who at first seem like a shy, mild-mannered young man, is really mentally disturbed, homicidal serial killer who has taken over his family business, selling mannequins. He has problems dating women, due to his traumatic childhood involving his promiscuous mother. But that all changes once he meets Anna, a photographer who seems caring and supportive of him. But Frank must control his homicidal tendencies before it unleashes on the woman he loves....
Elijah Wood gave an incredibly chilling performance. He was vulnerable yet vicious, exploring the complexity of that character. In this version, Frank Zito gets the "psycho" treatment. Joe Spinell wasn't exactly an attractive man but it worked for the role he was playing and his performance in the m movie was the best thing so far. So in this version, they made frank more mildly attractive and is able to blend in with society, which is the first-case scenario of a serial killer. And the scary thing about this character is that he is charming enough and convincing enough to make everyone believe he's this harmless nice guy when really he's a dangerous psychopath.
We actually see the emotional torture that Frank's mother put him through with her neglect and emotional abuse. Seeing her degrade herself and eventually living a double life as a prostitute. This is the remaining factor betrayal and hatred of his mother.
In the end, it's really a cry for help and his inability to control his inner demons ultimately destroy him.
Nora Arnezeder was exceptionally likeable as Anna. Both her and Elijah Wood have really good chemistry and the movie does a good job building up Frank and Anna's relationship.
To be honest, the chemistry is much better here than it was in the original and there is much more to the Anna character than just being a designated love interest. The tragic thing about this relationship is that Frank is unable to conceal his dark desires and it unfortunately kills Anna.
Yes, Anna dies in this version. I wasn't really sure what happened to Anna in the original. She just injured Frank and ran off, never to be seen again. So I think the remake fixes this, even though I don't know why the filmmakers choose to kill off Anna.
The brutal yet visceral kills are laced with a stylish artistic delicacy that only the French can master. Most of the directing does feel like a music video but it works for it.
One of my favorite scenes is when Frank and Anna go to a movie theater where they play a German Expressionist film which seems to be a short film of it's own.
Overall, the film is a massive improvement and seems to tell a much more effective and chilling story.
The Verdict? This is a hard choice since the original is a cult classic but I have to go with the remake on this. It tells a much better story, it has a rather sweet (if bittersweet) love story, great visuals and a strong performance by Elijah Wood.
My Last Word: Yes! Watch This!