Maniac, remake of the 1980 film, favors style over substance. The premise is simple: shy Frank is a mannequin store owner by day, but stalker and scalper of women by night. Photographer Anna unwittingly becomes Frank’s next obsession when she stumbles across his shop and seeks his help with her latest art exhibit.
What makes Maniac unique is that the film unfolds through Frank’s eyes. Shot from the serial killer’s perspective, you only catch glimpses of Frank throughout the film, mostly in reflections. It’s an effective method; you’re unnerved while watching the victims through his eyes yet you can’t help but feel some compassion for Frank. Which is even more disturbing. Frank is not gentle with his victims and the scalping scenes are brutal and gory.
Elijah Wood portrays Frank with a perfect balance of lonely innocence and schizoid creep. Nora Arnezeder, who plays Anna, does a superb job as the object of Frank’s desire. She manages to be both charming and endearing, which can’t be easy when forced to emote directly at the camera. It’s her friendship with Frank that prevents the film from becoming too repetitive with Frank’s stalk and kill pattern.
I should mention that I’m a sucker for easter eggs, and I loved the nods to both the original Maniac and Silence of the Lambs. I suspect this movie will be polarizing for viewers; I don’t see everyone buying into the film’s style therefore will be unable to get past the basic serial killer formula. It worked for me completely, however, and elevated it above many other slasher flicks. The performances were top notch and the killer’s POV added more depth to an otherwise predictable story.