Thursday, October 17, 2013

Scary Movie Month, Day 17

Maniac (2012)

I'm torn. This is a movie that does what it set out to do very well. The problem is that what it set out to do is make the viewer feel intensely uncomfortable. From a technical standpoint it's very solid, an audacious remake that's truly far superior to the original (not too difficult a task as William Lustig's original is off-putting, ugly, and irredeemably sleazy). That being said, I don't think I ever want to see it again.

The story centers on Frank (Elijah Wood), a man who makes a living (somehow) restoring mannequins (sadly, Meschach Taylor doesn't cameo). Frank also murders and scalps women, a pastime that at least saves him money on wigs for the mannequins, I would assume.

What makes the remake audacious is that almost all of it (minus maybe three or four shots in the entire movie) is seen from Frank's point of view. While that may seem needlessly gimmicky, it turns out to be genuinely unsettling. While it can get a bit repetitive (stalk, kill, scalp, lather, rinse, repeat) it's still a powerful way to let the audience experience Frank's mental state. I feel deeply nauseous as I write this, and I assure you I mean that as a compliment to the filmmakers.

Because it's entirely shot from Frank's POV he tends to look at his reflection an awful lot, but for the most part director Franck Khalfoun stages those moments in a way that allows them to seem organic. There's a great little Easter egg of a moment where Frank's reflection in a car door mimics the poster art for the original Maniac, which had one of the best horror posters of all time (I WARNED YOU NOT TO GO OUT TONIGHT).

Also of note is the score, credited to someone who apparently goes only by the name Rob. It's very John Carpenter-y, all moody synths. The choice to set one scene to "Goodbye Horses", made famous by Ted Levine's tuck-n-prance in Silence of the Lambs, seems a bit too on-the-nose for this movie, but other than that the music was stellar and the tone of the movie was consistently grim.

All things considered, I'm glad I saw it. It's well directed (the first murder legit made me jump in my seat), well acted, and deeply disturbing. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go scrub my brain with steel wool.

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