Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Maniac (1980)

I read in Entertainment Weekly about a horror movie starring Elijah Wood that's coming out, and when I heard that it was a remake of an older movie - one with cult status, and something of a reputation for its brutality - I (of course) decided to track it down.

Maniac is the title of that movie, and it's fantastic. It's definitely got a real "exploitation" feel to it, the way it follows the serial killer around, instead of building up sympathy for the victims and keeping the killer a mystery, the way you're "supposed" to do it.

The effects are pretty good for its time (Tom Savini stars in a cameo role), and where there might be limitations, the stark thrust of the narrative, and the characterization of this brutal killer make up for it - so much so that even I was pretty startled by some of the scenes (which is totally a good thing).

And while the explanation for the killer's mania is ultimately not that consequential (typical abusive mother sob story), the character's emotional state fuels the amoral pathos that gives the story its unsettling edge - and eventually leads it into some wonderfully surreal territory that makes for an unforgettable ending. The movie's reputation is well-deserved.

I can't imagine the remake doing it justice - although the sky's the limit on gore effects these days, modern society doesn't seem to have the guts to stomach a morally ambiguous story anymore - and anyway the synopsis makes it sound like another boring drama rather than a horrifying character study - but I can't know for sure until I've seen it.