The Remake of the 1980 Classic
DIRECTED BY FRANCK KHALFOUN/2013 (U.S. theatrical release)
Maniac was one of my favorite slasher movies of the 80s. But in actuality, it’s not really a slasher movie; it’s more a very realitistic take on a serial killer movie. It’s as brutal as Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, but years before it. Everything about Maniac is perfect, in the most sloppy way imaginable. It’s pure guerilla filmmaking, but legitimized by the effects of Tom Savini. It’s brutal but invigorating.
Along with being a movie, it also doubles as a tour guide for New York 42nd Street in the late 70s/early 80s. Prostitutes, pimps and gamblers everywhere. This was way before Giuliani cleaned it up (i.e. ruined it) . And Maniac was the kind of movie that played on 42nd Street. Violent and sleazy. You could watch it in one of the Manhattan grindhouse theaters and then walk outside and literally be on set.
And here comes the remake to Maniac. In the original, Joe Spinell played the killer. Spinell was perfect because he was ugly, fat and looked like what a serial killer may look like. In the remake, Elijah Wood plays the killer. Wood is not your typical Hollywood good-looking actor. In fact his small staure, Frodo-like if you will, may benefit him in the role. But let it be pointed out that even if he’s not Brad Pitt, Hollywood would never allow a studio film about a serial killer star someone who actually looks like a serial killer.
But regardless of any of that, those are the rules of Hollywood. And at this point you either cynically accept that or just completely reject Hollywood. Wood played a psychopath quite well in Sin City. So he’s definitely capable of getting into that kind of character. So will the rest of the film around him live up to what he can bring?
Alexandre Aja has proven himself to be the best director in the Hollywood remake industry, though some of that may have to do with his competition being dreadful. His one-two knockout punch of Hills Have Eyes and Piranha 3D both (in my possibly controversial opinion) exceeded the originals of both. I also consider both of those films to be better than Aja’s French film that made him famous, Switchblade Romance. But don’t get too excited, he is only the writer/producer. His sidekick, Franck Khalfoun, is directing this one. Khalfoun directed the mildly entertaining P2. Though that is somewhat promising, the Maniac remake has to be much better than P2 to live up to the legend of the first Maniac.
In the end, I am open-minded for Maniac, but not necessarily excited. I anticipate walking out of the theater thinking it’s not bad but suffers in comparison to the original. To the left you will see the original poster to the 1980 version. Elvis Mitchell of The Treatment once said it’s the greatest poster he has seen in the last 30 years. He gushes about how the poster achieves such a terrifying invitation to the film along with the sexual symbolism behind the images.
Due to the explicit nature of the Maniac trailer, which at this time is only available as a Red Band trailer, it will not be posted on the site. But readers can seek it out at their own discretion. Just be advised, it is a brutal trailer that falls strongly in the category of a hard Rated R. Maniac premiered in American film festivals in October of 2012. A wide release date is still to be announced. Here’s to hoping the remake can capture some of the magic of the original.