It’s rare that a remake comes close to matching the intensity and style of an original – MANIAC, Franck Khalfoun’s contemporary reimagining of William Lustig’s serial killer sleaze classic, is pretty damn intense and has a style all of its own. Consider it a success. The horror film from IFC Midnight continues its run in Houston this week – moving to Mason Park for late night screenings through Thursday.
Elijah Wood stars as Frank, a quiet man who spends his days restoring antique mannequins and his nights prowling through the quiet streets of downtown LA in search of women to stab, kill and scalp – not necessarily in that order. Told almost entirely from the point-of-view of the killer, MANIAC is a movie that does not shy away from violence or gore. The film very often gets visceral with its display of intense head trauma – leading more than one queasy audience member to have to step out of the theater during its run at Vintage Park last week.
More frightening than the violence, though, is the look inside the psyche of Frank that the movie allows. From deeply entrenched issues with women stemming from a slightly unusual relationship with his mother to fears of transforming into the very sexless mannequins he spends so much time caring for, Frank is a complex guy and the movie frequently targets into his unstable personality. These unhealthy thoughts become even harder to control when Frank begins to spend time with Anna, a beautiful young photographer played by Nora Arnezeder, who only stands to remind Frank of his frequent impotency.
The film, produced by French horror filmmaker Alexandre Aja, easy forges its own identity, away from that of the original, through a unique approach to the film’s style. Aside from the decision to film the movie from the POV of Frank (Wood is only seen on camera through reflections in mirror and brief moments where he seems to have an out-of-body experience), the movie has a breathtaking ‘80s synth-inspired score by electronic composer ROB. Like a cross between vintage John Carpenter scores and the soundtrack from last year’s DRIVE, the music for MANIAC becomes a character in itself for much of the movie.
Don’t miss your last chance to see MANIAC on the big screen this week. The film will screen nightly at Mason Park through Thursday.