Film Reviews

MANIAC

By • Jul 1st, 2013 •

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Why remake William Lustig’s 1980 underground shocker MANIAC for a modern audience? The only people who know about the original are probably the ones who would be most outraged by an updated version. The ballsy move of not complying to the rating system ensures a very limited release, so the people who watch it in theaters will have to seek it out. I did, and found myself in Downtown LA, where all of the movie takes place. This drew a parallel of what it must have been like to see the original in Times Square NY, where it was shot, before it became as safe as Disneyland.

Downtown LA is still seedy. There are a couple of streets that have been yuppified with bars and clubs, but just a few blocks away you’ll find Skid Row (aka Tent City), and it looks like something out of STREET TRASH, where bums rule the lay of the land. This makes for an appropriate location change.

The film is shot almost entirely through the point of view of the protagonist, and we soon realize that the reason for this remake is from a technical standpoint, not story, which remains as one-dimensional as ever. While it makes for a clever aesthetic, many will be unnerved by the implication of the gimmick. If Carol Clover ever decides to update MEN WOMEN AND CHAINSAWS, her wonderful book that analyzes gender roles in horror, she can devote a whole chapter to this film.

Unlike the original, it’s made with precision, flair, and an added element of artsy surrealism. There is something effectively disturbing about watching a down-and-dirty exploitation film, but there is something equally or more unsettling about watching a polished, beautifully-crafted film, starring A-list talent,that wallows in the same smut. Similar to Gaspar Noe’s IRREVERSIBLE, it’s grindhouse meets arthouse. If that ain’t your bag, WORLD WAR Z is offering safe scares across the street.

The editing is well paced, utilizing dissolves as transitions instead of hard cuts. This, along with the droning, synthesized music, evoke a retro tone which fortunately never fully divolves into tongue and cheek. The makers don’t seem obsessed with sleazy titles of the past, like the worst of the Tarantino rip-offs. Instead it tries to achieve a similarity in spirit. So don’t expect fake scratches to be found on the glossy digital print.

The heightened performances take some getting used to, but we soon realize everyone is on the same page. Elijah Wood is only seen for about 5% of the movie, and is heard mostly through voice. I was most impressed by Nora Arnezeder’s ability to act while staring at a lens. I doubt Wood was there to read the lines.

I suspect most will dislike this quite a bit, but the fans won’t be disappointed, and that’s who it was made for.

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