Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Maniac (2012)

Director – Franck Khlafoun
Writers – Alexandre Aja, Gregory Levasseur
Production Company – La Petite Reine, Studio 37, Canal+
Stars – Elijah Wood, Nora Arnezeder

I didn’t know what to expect when I turned on Maniac the other night, I do love horror movies but my memory doesn’t serve me well on knowing if things are remakes.  I don’t believe I’ve seen the original Maniac made in 1980, so while I was watching this current Maniac, I had nothing to compare it to.  I simply picked this movie because word of mouth keeps bringing it up on my radar.

Elijah Wood plays our main character, Frank.  Frank runs a mannequin restoration shop, courtesy of his late mother.  Frank is a disturbed young man who can not only thank his mother for the restoration shop, but can also thank her for his great need to scalp women!  Thanks mom. 


Franks mother is shown in various flashbacks, most of them involve her having seedy sex in front of Frank and yelling at him to leave or go wait for her somewhere while she finishes her deed. This is definitely disturbing to a young man, I can only imagine.  But I’m not quite sure this would lead to Frank wanting to scalp other young woman?  It would have made more sense to me if he wanted to kill guys looking for prostitutes.  But I can sort of accept him wanting to hurt ladies, if they acted the same way his mother did (aka loose) – but some of them he truly knew nothing about.  It’s not like he was out scalping prostitutes or porn stars.  He’s just murdering run of the mill girls.

Frank brings these scalps back to his mannequin restoration shop and places them on his restored mannequins, he then has all sorts of interactions with these mannequins.  From watching it seems like they sort of retain some of the scalped woman’s personality and fight with each other, which drives Frank nuts…well more nuts.

Frank also leaves a super trail when hunting his ladies, there’s never gloves and he even uses a Dating website to hook up with one of his victims – not to mention there are a few chase scenes in the city where the ladies always find themselves surrounded by fences or walls– and why these women couldn’t attract attention or at least try to beat the crap out of Frank I don’t know. Frank seems really small compared to half the women in the movie.  Frank was creepy for sure, but not scary in stature.

The main storyline is between Frank and Anna, Anna is a photographer who ends up at Franks shop.  Her niche is taking pictures of mannequins and bringing them to life.  As you can imagine, Frank becomes quite attached to her.  She’s kind to him, and very interested in his work.   Anna talks him into letting her use some of his mannequins for her art show in the very near future.  Frank falls for Anna and she remains kind to him even though he’s quite off – even in everyday life.

Throughout Anna and Franks interaction I wasn’t quite sure if Anna saw more in Frank then just a friend, I guess there could have been a little something there – Anna neglects to tell Frank she has a boyfriend, and it seems fairly obvious that he was “into” her.  She also accepts gifts from Frank, and he makes himself highly available to her.

The last part of the movie involves Frank going to Anna’s art opening, he has a few cringe inducing interactions between Anna’s boyfriend and her agent.  Frank ends up murdering Anna’s agent, and subsequently Anna finds out about her agents death and becomes highly emotional – Frank soon comes over to her apartment to comfort her. Once Frank is at Anna’s apartment they start chatting about Rita, and Frank let’s a few things slip out that make Anna highly aware of the fact that Frank’s the killer.  She runs around and manages to lock herself into a room away from Frank.  Then comes the scene that made me squirm, it involves a neighbor, his mouth, and Frank’s butcher knife…omg..that was a good one!

But that great scene still didn’t save it for me.  Anna manages to escape her apartment, and we end up with another man chasing woman scene.  A car is passing by, and Anna manages to jump in. As the driver speeds away she grabs the wheel and points the car in Frank’s direction – well she tries too.  The car ends up hitting a pole, and Anna is hurt so badly I was shocked.  I might need to view this scene again, but Anna is flung completely out of the car and Frank comes to her rescue, OK that’s a lie – He comes over to take a souvenir.

The last scene did confuse me a little bit, I already mentioned above that I was a little confused on the interactions that Frank had with all of his mannequins so there’s more of that, and all the mannequins are fighting with each other making Frank crazy and then they all pull the skin off his face (in his mind I think) and then the cops show up.  The End.

OK so you can probably already tell I wasn’t totally digging this movie.  So the main things that I didn’t like, that I’m totally open to people clearing up (be gentle) for me are :

1.       How did Frank’s childhood = I need to scalp women now? (I guess I should just accept this though, I mean the title of the movie is MANIAC)
2.       Why did Frank choose the women he did?
3.       How could the cops not be hot on his trail? ( I would have loved to see a detective have a role in this movie, gathering clues etc.)

End Spoilers

During the whole film you don’t get to see a lot of Frank, it’s a POV sort of style.  You get to see what Franks sees.  I enjoyed this highly in some scenes like when Franks stalking from the shadows, chasing his victims, or even having a more gentle conversation with Anna. However I think it might have been a little overused, I would have felt Frank’s “crazy” with less of it.

The music, I LOVED the soundtrack to this movie.  It was very atmospheric, and seemed to fit quite perfectly – but it could have stood to be used a little less, as you can overkill a movie with music too. The overall look was top notch and I was even a little shocked at the gore because normally when something looks so good you get really fake looking gore – this was done masterfully.

It’s a style thing I didn't dig, not a quality thing in this movie’s case.  I simply don’t enjoy this style movie, it was almost too perfect looking and not gritty enough. The POV filming style was a bit annoying and  I would have enjoyed it more with some simple changes like a stronger main character (aka fierce, big, and scary), more connection between the scalping’s and Franks childhood, and a more clear understanding on what relief scalping women gave Frank – even if it was only fleeting.

I wish I could explain my thoughts on the film more eloquently – but that’s what I got.  Sometimes I think I'm hard on one film for one thing but willing to let it slide in others, but I guess that's why there's so many choices for so many tastes!


  1. I thought this was a decent remake, but as is always the case doesn't live up to the original. If you thought this one was too polished, definitely give the original a shot. Great review!