Horror remakes are everywhere lately. If they’re not remaking classics such as Texas Chainsaw, Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th, Hollywood is dumbing down films from other countries with One Missed Call or Shutter. These remakes would be fine if they either expanded on the property or were even suspenseful on their own but they fail in that department. Only few are able to do this successfully and one of the best at it is the remake of Maniac from 2012. Starring Elijah Wood, the film follows Frank, a mannequin collector who due to an abusive childhood, uses fresh scalps off of victims to make his mannequins come to life. During the course of the film, he meets an art student and the more he tries to stop his urges, the more his obsession escalates.
What makes this film so incredible is how horrifying the character is and thankfully, Maniac plays as a character study more than anything. By presenting most of the film from Frank’s point of view, we get this excellent study of a psychopath from his mannerisms to his day to day activities. All of this helps the audience almost relate to the character even. We see this through the hallucinations that Frank suffers from such as the mannequins coming to life in certain scenes as well as the flashbacks to his childhood giving a method to his madness. The film is also more disturbing from his point of view because the kills are fully visible and nothing is off screen. This movie is extremely brutal and doesn’t shy away from any scalping and because of that, it’s really hard to watch at points.
There are a few times where the film switches from first-person to third person and those scenes are just as effective because they feel like out of body experiences. For example, the scene where Frank kills the older woman in her bathtub, it really shows how separated he is from his crimes and that he doesn’t see the evil in what he’s doing. All of these shots and perspectives really help bring a sense of relation to the character as we see from his eyes the atrocities he commits and the way he feels and acts towards them.
Another aspect of the film that really brings humanity and tension to the character of Frank is Elijah Wood’s performance in the role. He nails it from beginning to end by portraying him as a soft spoken yet disturbed individual who can’t help himself. One of my favourite scenes is the finale which really brought to life the mental state and insanity of the character. When he meets Anna, the art student, we also see a lot of his humanity and desperation to become a better person come out and Wood nails this on the head. Through his voice and mannerisms, its obvious he doesn’t want to do what he does and even implies that after killing his blind date early on in the film. Elijah is incredible in this movie as he brings a timid yet human and desperate performance to Frank.
Maniac is a hard film to watch for its brutality, but by analyzing Frank instead of just letting him run loose and kill people, we get a fantastic as well as very suspenseful and horrifying film. Through the intelligent use first person POV and Elijah Wood’s performance, we get a fantastic study of a disturbed psychopath desperate to become better. It’s scary, brutal, intense and one of my all time favourite horror remakes.