Saturday, October 19, 2013

MANIAC (2012)

Franck Khalfoun's 2012 remake of William Lustig's 1980 grindhouse classic Maniac is a terrific example of a horror movie being successfully reimagined and not requiring a big studio budget to do so.
Possibly realising that it would be impossible to recapture the grimy Times Square seediness of the original, Khalfoun sets the remake in Los Angeles and gives the film a more digitally clean sheen, but the oppressive world of the lead character Frank Zito (Elijah Wood) and his rapid descent into psychosis is effectively captured by filming the majority of the movie from his point of view, so the only times we actually get to see the lead character on screen - a apart from a few brief isolated sequences - is when we catch his reflection in a mirror or on a television monitor. This POV style gives the film something of an early De Palma feel. The violence is brutal and startling, just as make-up maestro Tom Savini's notorious scalping effects shocked and outraged in the original.
Elijah Wood, so creepy in Sin City, is not as physically repulsive or intimidating as the late Joe Spinell, making his Zito more of a Ted Bundy type, in that females seem to find him attractive and safe to be around. And the relationship between Zito and young photographer Anna (Nora Arnezeder) is certainly more fleshed-out and believable than that between Spinell and Caroline Munro. Nice ambient score by Raphaël Hamburger, though not as memorable as Jay Chattaway's 1980 score. I liked the clever visual reference to the lurid and controversial poster art used to promote the original film. Lost its way a little bit towards the end, but overall I found this to be a rare remake that pays due tribute to the original while still managing to stand creatively and dramatically on its own.