Frank carries out mannequin restorations, he also collects them but he has a problem, he is mentally disturbed. The women he meets he can’t help murder.
A remake of William Lustig’s 1980s cult horror Maniac the 2012 incarnation from director Franck Khalfoun is graphic, mesmerizing and haunting.
Playing against typecast Elijah Wood is Frank, we see very little of him on screen mostly via reflections, flashbacks, photographs and so on. His voice (eerily feels disembodied at times) has an odd creepiness to it, his look at first glance seems normal, but Wood manages to give you the sense that something is off, especially as the film progresses and he stalks his prey. The point of view style after a while becomes less novel but you literally go inside a mind of a stalking serial killing maniac which is at times voyeuristically uncomfortable.
The cast are naturalistic which adds to the horror as it unfolds. Although the performances are excellent from America Olivo, Megan Duffy, Jan Broberg and Genevieve Alexandra to name a few they mainly amount to just Franks victims due to natural slasher confinement of Alexandre Aja and Grégory Levasseur screenplay. That said, what the script successfully manages to do it make you care or get an insight as what these characters are about in a short space of time. Franks ‘love’ interest Anna is played admirably by lead actress Nora Arnezeder who gives a sterling performance and full of range similar to Elijah.
Filmed on many real locations the lighting is excellent, at times stylistic depending on the scene giving the film a gritty and in contrast crisp atmosphere throughout. Robin Coudert’s music score is fantastic, reminiscent of ’80s-style synth it has a surreal dreamlike quality, it certainly is a fitting score. There’s a memorable track with vocals from Chloe Alper and it also features the obligatorily synonymous ‘Goodbye Horses’ performed by Q. Lazzarus.
Some scenes are particularly warped. Although never preachy much of the horror is due to its portrayal of real life repulsion and it psychological impact, Frank’s mother prostitute shenanigans is alone enough to get under your skin. On top of the moralistic terror Khalfoun delivers graphic violence, rotten flesh, blood, sinew and muscle – the special effects are finely executed but it’s not for the faint hearted it’s a harrowing watch. At times illusory the P.O.V camera technique becomes troublesome during the closing act and it is pity Khalfoun didn’t mix and match the conventional process.
While the style of filming is creatively advantageous it does at times have the opposite immersible effect, however, if Khalfoun’s intention was to give you an insight into what a killer sees it’s selfishly successful.