I have done some really stupid things in my life. Some of those things I’m not horribly proud of and some I’m glad I did. Tonight some friends and I watched a double feature of the upcoming IFC release Maniac and the Australian film The Loved Ones. While the pairing was excellent, I am pretty sure that I am going to have nightmares for a week. The last time that happened, I paired The Last House on the Left with I Spit on Your Grave. You can imagine the result of that one. While The Loved Ones was absolutely incredible, this review is for Maniac. We will save that one for another time.
Elijah Wood plays Frank, a third generation mannequin restorer with severe mommy issues. His mom was a prostitute and Frank saw her take it every which way by several men, instead of spending time with him. This has caused him to have issues getting close to women. Whenever Frank becomes absorbed in an attractive woman, he feels compelled to scalp them because “hair is the only thing that lasts forever.” When Anna (Nora Arnezeder), a beautiful French photographer and artist, comes along and is interested in his old mannequins, Frank is determined to control his habit with her, taking it out on other women instead.
Maniac is a beautifully shot film. It is almost entirely shot in first person, mainly showing Frank through reflections. He has horrible migraines brought on by his need to kill. It seems that when that need is truly satiated, we see him in third person as if it has made him more than just a reflection of himself.
Frank chases these women, doing whatever necessary to kill them, including breaking into their homes. The extent that he goes to is intense to say the least as he is unwilling to let any of them go. The scalping itself is so realistic that I felt their screams deep in my gut.
The strangest part to me was how he staples the scalps to mannequins and actually believes they are the real women. Since he now keeps them in his home, they are his and can never leave him.
Elijah Wood made me terribly uncomfortable, proving that he is more than just a hobbit. His pursuit of Anna proved the most frightening to me. Their friendship is so normal and she is so unsuspecting of his insanity. It certainly made for some pillow hugging moments.
Maniac is one of my favorite films of the year. I guarantee you will start paying closer attention to your surroundings after a viewing. Anything bad you might have heard about it probably came from an angry fan of the original that is unwilling to accept change. Ignore them and form your own opinion. Keep a pillow close by. You’ll need it.
Maniac is available on DVD and Blu-ray this Tuesday from IFC films and included commentary, deleted scenes and alternate artwork on the reverse side of the cover.