Horror. Worldview. Faith.

Maniac – Review

Maniac – Review

Nov 25, 2011

reviewed by hallo
directed by William Lustig, 1980

In their initial meeting about the film, director William Lustig instructed actress and the film’s protagonist Caroline Munro to “watch Halloween. . .this is how movies are being made now.”  Such a directorial instruction leaves little doubt to the film’s intentions and design.  And yet Maniac offers something quite different than its Halloween predecessor.

This 1980 slasher/splatter film is follows the life of Frank Zito (Joe Spinell) who is a lonely landlord and demented psychopathic killer.  His small apartment is furnished with mannequins who are adorned with real human hair from Zito’s female victims.  We learn that Frank has a serious problem with women and is unable to be around a female too long without going into a rage and killing her.  After the death, he scalps his victim and take their hair back to his place as a token of his accomplishment.  As the film progresses, we learn that Frank was physically abused by his prostitute mother and he is unable to ultimately discern between her face and the face of his victims.  In a rather chilling climatic scene, Frank hallucinates and believes all the mannequins in his apartment are coming to life to kill him.  The police find him dead the next morning.

On the surface, Maniac seems like a cheap, cheesy, typical 80’s slasher flick.  I suppose in some ways it lives up to that assessment.  But there is more to this movie than meets the eye.  First Joe Spinell delivers a weighty and memorable performance as Frank Zito.  The American-Italian demeanor works perfectly for this troubled soul who lives in the heart of New York City.  There are a couple of memorable scenes where Frank is describing his troubled childhood and they come across as sincere and truly motivational.  Unlike Halloween, we not only get to see what causes Frank to kill, but we grasp a sense of the darkest of human conditions; not being loved.  When Frank meets Anna (Caroline Munro) we see a different side of the serial killer and have momentary hope that things will change.  Those hopes are crushed as we watch Frank slip deeper and deeper into his psychosis.

The movie is also memorable for its gore.  One scene in particular portrays what is perhaps one of the most realistic and graphic deaths I have seen in horror.  It is the infamous “disco boy” death where a young Tom Savini gets his head blown off inside a car.  Frank jumps on the hood, points a shotgun through the windshield, and pulls the trigger.  It really has to be seen to be believed, the realism is simply incredible.

Although Maniac has moments of slowly moving along with the story, the psychological element of Frank mixed with some beautiful gore effects makes this a slasher film worth viewing.  I have heard rumors of a remake (big surprise) and will be interested to see how the actor who plays Frank (perhaps Elijah Wood?) deals with the delicate character of Frank Zito.

Body Count Podcast #1112

Body Count Podcast #1112

Nov 8, 2011

Hallo, Danny, and Skot discuss all kinds of things – Paranormal Activity, American Horror Story, The Walking Dead, and a bunch of random movies are discussed.