Maniac (1 star)


Gratuitous slasher remake with a lead performance by Elijah Wood

This slasher remake takes the concept of William Lustig’s controversial 1980 original, focusing on Frank, a loner sociopath who brutally murders beautiful women, and increases the repellent-factor by virtue of a much higher gore budget and a decision to shoot almost every frame from the killer’s point of view. Simply put, for viewers who would like to see lots of women, some of them naked, being strangled, stabbed, drowned, and, this killer’s particular favourite, scalped, in intense detail from the perspective of the one doing the damage, there is much to like here.

Beginning behind the wheel of Frank’s car as it crawls LA’s backstreets, with a pulsing, ominous synth score running underneath, director Franck Khalfoun initially evokes a brooding mood akin to Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive. It’s not the only similarity between the two films – they both centre on men with the capacity for inhuman violence – but where Refn’s film was marked by enigmatic subtlety, Khalfoun shoves everything in your face, right down to the luridly-visualised backstory that explains this killer’s murderous obsession. Frank is played by Elijah Wood, whose huge intense eyes – glimpsed in mirrors and windows – and increasingly fractured voiceover, occasionally bring his Lord of the Rings buddy Gollum to mind.

The first-person perspective recalls Michael Powell’s chilling masterpiece Peeping Tom, while Frank’s mother-fixated interior monologue is reminiscent of Anthony Perkins’ performance in Psycho; these are the right reference points if you want to address cinema’s inherent voyeurism as Khalfoun appears to. But his film is so needlessly graphic and explicitly violent from the outset that it ends up catering to the desires of a voyeuristic audience much more effectively than critiquing them.

Limited release from Fri 15 Mar.

Maniac Red Band Trailer [HD]: Elijah Wood, America Olivo and Nora Arnezeder: ENTV


  • 1 star
  • 2012
  • France / US
  • 1h 29min
  • 18
  • Directed by: Franck Khalfoun
  • Written by: Alexandre Aja, Gregory Levasseur
  • Cast: Elijah Wood, Nora Arnezeder, Liane Balaban
  • UK release: 15 March 2013

Frank (Wood) is a loner who brutally murders beautiful women, in this remake of William Lustig's controversial 1980 slasher movie. The movie is shot from the killer's point of view, and is so needlessly graphic and violent from the outset that it caters to voyeurism more than it critiques it.