Having played Cannes back in May, Franck Khalfoun’s Elijah Wood starring remake of the horror cult classic Maniac found its way onto FrightFest screens looking to both disturb and terrorise its audience.
Frank Zito (Wood) is a lonely and troubled man. Now living and working in his mother’s old antique mannequin restoration shop, he has become disconnected and isolated from human contact since her death. Due to his mother’s sordid personal life as well as his own disturbed mind, he has become a rather savage and brutal serial killer. Seeking a connection with a member of the opposite sex, he stalks the streets of Los Angeles and, unable to fight his violent urges, scalps and kills innocent victims. Then he meets Anna, a young photographer, and after sharing an appreciation for each other’s work, they begin a doomed friendship as Frank battles his demons.
Maniac is a horrible, sleazy and wholly uncomfortable experience and I believe that needs to be said. However, it’s uncompromising nature makes it utterly and completely engaging. Impeccably made, Khalfoun’s skill with the material means it never feels nasty for nasty’s sake. Obviously, this film will not be for everyone as you’d expect, I just hope people who have a negative reaction don’t get mixed up and question the films motivations of misogyny, because I believe that can’t be argued. A misogynistic film is one thing; a film about a misogynist is completely different. And although we do see violence against many women in the film, the act is never condoned and always represented as horrific.
The brave stylistic choice of shooting entirely in POV works amazingly well, it’s intelligently used and gives the audience an unfiltered look at Frank’s terrifying existence. You would think such a choice would become annoying very quickly but it never feels out of place or played as a gimmick. It wins you over and makes you understand that this is the only way to tell this type of story effectively.
Elijah Wood is mesmerising as Frank Zito – another inspired choice from Khalfoun – the actor’s demeanour and physical presence is so excellently played and gives the character an odd vulnerability, he’s a tragic figure who’s broken life has lead him down a path he never wanted to walk down and is now stuck. Although, it’s important to say that the director is smart enough to never give a shred of sympathy of empathy to the character, he is evil and is always seen as such.
Technically flawless, the film sounds and looks incredible. Focused, dark and deeply disturbing, Maniac creates an atmosphere of which I haven’t experienced in a cinema in quite some time. One of the best films this year has had to offer so far.