×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Maniac

A shocker of a remake, equal parts stylish and scuzzy, "Maniac" only marginally softens the grindhouse sleaze of William Lustig's 1980 original.

With:
With: Elijah Wood, Nora Arnezeder, Megan Duffy, Jan Broberg, Genevieve Alexandra, Sammi Rotibi, Joshua De La Garza, America Olivo. (English dialogue)

A shocker of a remake, equal parts stylish and scuzzy, “Maniac” only marginally softens the grindhouse sleaze of William Lustig’s 1980 original, still notorious for being the “Taxi Driver” of slashers. With an intense Elijah Wood in the title role of a wigged-out psycho killer who affixes the scalps of his female victims to fly-drawing mannequins, this merciless work of anti-entertainment is arguably admirable for being as disturbingly disgusting as it wants to be. Stateside distribs might well stalk the France-U.S. co-production, but an R rating is inconceivable for anything like the version screened after midnight at Cannes.

Shot largely from the p.o.v. of heavy-breathing Los Angeles slayer Frank Zitto (Wood), director Franck Khalfoun’s faithful remake (co-written by Alexandre Aja and Gregory Levasseur) sets out to victimize the viewer, and succeeds to the extent that unsuspecting horror fans might end up running for the exits before the Grand Guignol finale. The first of the film’s handful of unwatchably ultraviolent scenes follows the maniac’s excruciatingly slow progress in hunting an innocent woman who’s eventually dispatched in gruesome fashion while trying to enter her apartment.

Popular on Variety

Such is the pic’s devotion to subjectivity that Wood’s performance is almost exclusively vocal for the first half-hour, the audience forced to share Frank’s predatory gaze. Like Lustig’s film, Khalfoun’s surveys the city’s seedier side from the window of the psycho’s car, giving it an easily recognizable relationship to Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver,” with all the psychotically clammy voyeurism that kinship allows.

“Psycho,” too, exerts itself on “Maniac,” as Frank recalls in hallucinatory flashback the neglect he suffered at the hands of his late prostitute mother (America Olivo), on whom he remains fixated. Other horror pics are acknowledged as well: Frank’s long, upsettingly sexual encounter with tattooed Lucie (Megan Duffy) is set to Q. Lazzarus’s “Goodbye Horses,” recalling “The Silence of the Lambs”; and the psycho’s first date with Anna (a Cybill Shepherd-esque Nora Arnezeder) has them catching a revival screening of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” referenced by Khalfoun as a reminder that savage killer films stretch back nearly a century.

Where Khalfoun’s “Maniac” fails to cut deep is in sketching the unlikely relationship between nutso Frank, who runs a mannequin shop, and sweet Anna, who somehow maintains an interest in the asocial weirdo while borrowing his dummies for her downtown L.A. gallery installation. Frank tries to control his murderous urges, declining to kill Anna when he has the chance, although the beauty-and-beast interplay rarely resembles anything emotionally authentic.

Late-reel victims Jessica (Genevieve Alexandra) and Rita (Jan Broberg) pay dearly (and, alas, memorably) in the pic, whose crisp and colorful widescreen shooting by Maxime Alexandre runs compellingly counter to the utter depravity of the material. The film’s old-school synth score by the mononymous Rob somewhat recalls that of the original “Halloween.” Sound recordist Emmanuel Augeard does a terrifically unsettling job of muffling the protag’s voice, the better for the maniac to seem supernaturally sick.

Maniac

France-U.S.

Production: A Thomas Langmann, Alexandre Aja production, in co-production with La Petite Reine, Studio 37, in association with Canal Plus, Cine Plus, Blue Underground. (International sales: Wild Bunch, Paris.) Produced by Langmann, Aja, William Lustig. Executive producers, Daniel Delume, Antoine de Cazotte, Andrew W. Garroni, Pavlina Hatoupis, Alix Taylor. Directed by Franck Khalfoun. Screenplay, Alexandre Aja, Gregory Levasseur, based on the film "Maniac" directed by William Lustig.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Maxime Alexandre; editor, Baxter; music, Rob; music supervisor, Raphael Hamburger; production designer, Steffania Cella; costume designer, Mairi Chisholm; sound, Emmanuel Augeard; associate producer, Emmanuel Montamat. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Midnight Screenings), May 22, 2012. Running time: 89 MIN.

Cast: With: Elijah Wood, Nora Arnezeder, Megan Duffy, Jan Broberg, Genevieve Alexandra, Sammi Rotibi, Joshua De La Garza, America Olivo. (English dialogue)

More Scene

  • Donna Karran David Lynch Foundation

    Donna Karan, Mary-Louise Parker Honored at David Lynch Foundation's Women of Vision Awards

    Donna Karan, Mary-Louise Parker and Deborra-Lee Furness were celebrated for their charitable work at the David Lynch Foundation’s 2019 Women of Vision Awards. “We are all being guided to come together as one. There is so much chaos in the world right now,” Karan said, while accepting her Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual luncheon on [...]

  • Bill Hader

    Bill Hader, Greg Berlanti, Margie Cohn and Cindy Holland Inducted Into Variety Hall of Fame

    Variety’s annual Hall of Fame ceremony mixed comedy, gratitude and warmth at the annual awards ceremony Tuesday night at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. Because the class of 2019 celebrates technical innovation and achievement across film, TV, digital, video games and music. The honorees — Greg Berlanti, Bill Hader, Cindy Holland, Dametra Johnson-Marletti, [...]

  • Billy Porter FNAA

    Billy Porter Explains Why Fashion 'Can and Should' Be Activism

    On Tuesday in New York City, a handful of fashion’s marquee names, including Kenneth Cole, Tommy Hilfiger, Steve Madden and Pete Nordstrom, and many of its muses, including Billy Porter, Lena Waithe, Adriana Lima and Paris Hilton, gathered to celebrate the annual Footwear News Achievement Awards — or, as it’s more colloquially dubbed, the “Shoe Oscars.” Activism and the potential for designers to spur [...]

  • Tiffany Haddish Black Mitzvah

    Barbra Streisand Gives Tiffany Haddish Star of David Necklace for Her 'Black Mitzvah'

    Tiffany Haddish rang in her 40th birthday Tuesday night by celebrating her black and Jewish heritage with a star-studded “Black Mitzvah” party. One of Haddish’s famous friends, Barbra Streisand, was noticeably absent from the festivities, but sent the comedian a special memento for the occasion. “She got me this beautiful Star of David,” Haddish told [...]

  • Kasi Lemmons

    'Harriet' Director Kasi Lemmons Weighs In on Julia Roberts Casting Controversy

    Eddie Murphy, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nia Long and “Harriet” filmmaker Kasi Lemmons were honored for their contributions to the industry Monday night at the inaugural celebration of black cinema by the Critics Choice Association. And as the event, held at the Landmark Annex in Los Angeles, looked back on how far people of color have come [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content