Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Halloween Reboot #3 Maniac

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I reviewed the original 1980 Maniac a while ago.
I am still unsure why this movie needed a reboot, but what do I know about the business of Hollywood?
Maniac from 2012.
We have a gentleman named Frank who owns a mannequin restoration business in Los Angeles. Why? Who knows, but I guess there is a need for that somewhere. He seems like a pretty quiet and mousy fellow. However, he is anything but that. By day he fixes mannequins and by night is a creep-o stalker killer. Frank has some mental issues. HE hunts ladies, dispatches them, takes their clothing and then scalps the dead ladies. He then returns home to adorn his mannequins with the dead clothing and bloody hair of his victim. Sure he is on some pills for all this, but those seem to not work at all.
Then one day Frank meets a female photographer that warms his psychotic little heart. Our boy Frank falls in love with Anna, and one would think this could help the little psycho. Well it does the opposite. It seems to make Frank more unstable. Will Frank find true love with Anna or will he just go farther off the rails? Well one can guess the answer to that. Frank’s crazy is only amped-up with Anna in his life. Even better/worse is when he discovers the truth Anna has neglected to tell him, she is involved with a guy. Whatever will Frank do?
Alright. That is the long and short of the Maniac reboot. I guess the big question is it better than the original?
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I guess it is?
Well first of all the plot actually makes a bit more sense in the reboot. Now that isn’t saying much but it is true. Due to a minute level of character development we get to see a tiny amount behind why Frank is nutty. That little bit of exposition helps a ton. Sure he is still a crazy that kills people, but at least they gave some idea why. The original film it was never clear why Frank was nuts.
Elijah Wood plays Frank Zito and like him or not, a least he some acting range. His moments of manic crazy are good. It is even creepier to see Frodo Baggins as a serial killer. Having a guy with a smaller stature as a killer instead of a large mass of humanity stalker works better. He looks like a normal dude as he is moving through life. Nobody would suspect him of being a crazy killer of ladies. Little Elijah Wood creep stalking and killing ladies is so much weirder and better than  a large fleshy Joe Spinnel.
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Look Frank found true love in a world full of mannequins.
The obsessive tendencies of Frank and his mental issues are more prominently on display. We see him washing his hands until they bleed. You see the effects of his headaches. There are the hallucinations. When there is a shot of Frank’s face you can see the struggle he is having to kill or not kill.
The film is mostly shot through the first person perspective of Frank. That makes it a lot more fun and disturbing. The attempt to make you feel like the killer while watching the film I found entertaining (or wildly disturbing to normal people). The first person point of view is just a bit crazy for a movie about a guy who kills and scalps ladies. Even better is when Frank is having his fits of migraine headaches the screen edges begin to blur a bit. We can see his obsessive tendencies as he seems them. It is a gimmick, but a fun one (or once again disturbing one for normal people).

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...and just a little off the top
The violence is pretty brutal and the first person perspective adds to that. Like really mean spirited violence and not wacky fun violence. I was really surprised by that. Especially after the original where it was just over the top Tom Savini early 80’s  blood and gore. I was surprised, at first, that they decided to go with such a merciless take. Then I snapped back and remembered modern day serial killer story. It should be brutal and bad.
The soundtrack is awesome! It is another throwback synth score. At times it reminds me of the sound from a Dario Argento film at times. At other times it reminded me of A Clockwork Orange. It was a great sound and worked really well for this movie.
Are there issues here that pull the movie down? Well yes there are.

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The first person perspective is fun, but it makes the lines sound like a bad script reading or automated dialogue replacement (ADR for those who like acronyms) when Frank is talking. Whatever was fun with the point of view is lost with the first person dialogue.
The perspective can make the film feel like a voyeuristic nightmare/fetish movie times. It was a gimmick that made it creepy and I can get why people had a difficult time with that.
The occasional jumps to the third person were just as strange as the first person view. It was wyrd to jump between perspectives. It also didn’t seem to mean anything when they did that either. A minor complaint I know.
There are computer enhanced effects in a few of the death scenes and they are noticeably bad. Why did they have to do that? There was no need for any computer effects or enhancement. The practical effects were fine and worked. Why bother adding C.G.I.?
The film location is now a modern day Los Angeles. It is impossible to believe that the streets and sidewalks are that barren when Frank is out stalking. It was difficult to imagine L.A. as being that empty at any time. I know another nitpick, but a noticeable one.
So is Maniac (2012) better than the original?
Well after watching and thinking about it some more….yes it is. The story actually makes more sense. Elijah Wood is a better Frank Zito. The violence is more realistic and disturbing. The score is fantastic and makes the movie feels like an 80’s slasher set in modern times. It is equally fun and disturbing to watch and that makes for a good horror movie.
Now Maniac (2012) is not a great movie. There are flaws and issues, however, it is tons better than the original film and that is the purpose of these reviews.
Finally this Friday I’ll watch and review the remake of the film that started the undead craze we are still currently living in……NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.

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