Maniac (2012)
By: J.R. McNamara on July 27, 2013 | Comments
Metrodome Video | Region Free | 2.35:1, 1080p | English: DTS-HD MA 5.1 | 89 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Maniac Blu-ray
Credits
Director: Franck Khalfoun
Starring: Elijah Wood, America Olivo, Nora Arnezeder, Liane Balaban
Screenplay: Alexandre Aja, Grégory Levasseur
Country: France, USA
External Links
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Maniac is a loose remake of Bill Lustig's classic horror film of the same name, which starred Joe Spinell and Caroline Monroe. Retooled by Alexandre Aja (known for a few other remakes) and Gregory Levasseur and directed by P2's, Franck Khalfoun, the updated story goes like this:

Manikin restorer Frank (Sin City's Elijah Wood) has a few problems: no friends, migraines, Oedipus complex, and a penchant for murdering and scalping women and using their removed hairpieces as wigs for his shop dummies. His life may be changing though as he meets a young photographer, Anna (Safe House's Nora Arnezeder), with whom he strikes up a friendship. But will his deadly urges allow that friendship to continue?

The most remarkable aspect of this film is the POV style in which it is shot. This isn't Blair Witch Project shaky-cam stuff; no, this is genuine, internet-porn styled POV that takes place from the viewpoint of the main character. Instead of the stock standard "found footage" device that forces its charcters to carry a video camera everywher, Maniac puts us inside the head of its lead character, giving us a panoramic view of his very life. Shown through his own eyes, we see Frank's surroundings the way his unhinged brain translates them. This device adds a touch of realism to the movie, so much so that New Zealand's censors recently banned Maniac from any release outside of film festival screenings, saying that wider availability would likely be "injurious to the public good". Yes, it obviously got under their skins!

The soundtrack has some impressive subtleties to it as well. First I have to praise the synthesiser score that occasionally kicks in, which felt like a nice nod to the era of the original. The real treat though comes from Wood's performance combined with the skill of the sound engineers. Listen closely when he is arguing with 'himself' and you'll hear an extra voice coming through one of your speakers. The combination of these sorts of sound techniques and the POV make for a disturbing, yet sympathetic lead man.

Speaking of the 80s, there are a few other nice nods to the original: a description of an online sleezebag that may fit Joe Spinell's appearance may have been a little offensive, but a reflection the killer sees of himself in a car door post-murder, which looks like the original 'erection' poster, was inspired.

Elijah Wood's performance as Frank is great as well. When you consider he is really only seen as a reflection or in flashbacks, he has a genuine presence in the film. Even when he is not seen he is usually heard, as there is a constant sound of his breathing which weighs heavily in every scene. It seems he was made for this role, as his sudden acts of violence, which won't disappoint gore fans, are completely offset by his almost child-like looks and mannerisms.

To me this is certainly one of the better horror films to come out in the past few years. Well-acted, sadistic, and with a somewhat unique visual style, I enjoyed every aspect of it. Top shelf.
The Disc
It's impossible to fault the picture and sound quality of this film on BD. The 2.35:1 1080p transfer is crystal clear at all times, and the lossless 5.1 DTS HD sound is immersive and impeccable. When you watch this, really listen to the subtle elements of the movie as it really makes the movie come to life.

The BD disc starts with a couple of trailers for Lovely Molly, Come Out and Play and Room 237. Extras offered include a series of interviews with Khalfoun, Aja, Woods and Arnedezer which reveal some of the ideas behind the making of the film, along with Maniac's trailer.

Disappointingly, there is no look at the cinematic style of the film: as a film fan I would have loved to have seen how some of this great POV work was done.
The Verdict
Maniac is a great horror film that impresses not just with its story, acting and gore, but also with its innovative presentation. I imagine this film will end up on my high rotation list for sure.
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
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