Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Chiller Classics Presents: Maniac (1980)

Wow, another month has come and gone already.  It seems like yesterday I reviewed Black Christmas.  This time around, in keeping with the recent remake of Maniac, I thought I'd spend this time talking about the original from 1980.

Ah, the 80's.  A time of longer cuts between dialogue, little to no shaky cam, and no overuse of CGI.  Maniac was made in a good time.  The story is as such: Frank Zito is the landlord of an apartment complex.  His likes include mannequins, heavy breathing and moaning, and killing women and scalping them so his collection of mannequins can have the hair they've always wanted.  He was raised by an abusive mother, who died in a car accident, leaving Frank an orphan.  After a number of women die at his hands, one day during a visit to a park he gets his picture taken by a photographer named Anna.  He finds out who she is and visits her home.  Instead of killing her he actually gets close to her, even going on a date or two.  But his dark, twisted side is still lurking in his psychotic mind.  What happens next?  You'll have to find out for yourself.

After 30+ years, the original Maniac still holds up to me as one of the best slasher flicks ever made.  Joe Spinell adds so much creepiness to the character of Frank, it finds few equals; his heavy breathing, moaning, random bouts of crying, and inner monologues and dialogue with his mannequins.  And yet when he befriends Anna, he shows a very convincing charm and confidence which really adds to the depth of the character.  Not many slasher flicks out there have shared such an inside look into the mind frame and life of a serial killer.  Also, the one and only Tom Savini did the makeup and special effects, and also had a small part in it.  Which leads to my next compliment for the kills.  The kills are yet another example of Savini's skills shining, particularly the 'shotgun to the head' scene you'll definitely have to see.  As well, one of the very last scenes in the movie is both gory and disturbing in it's own way.

Unlike many movies from around that time, Maniac doesn't waste time raising the body count.  And in-between kills, you get to look into his window of madness, which makes the slow parts rather fascinating.  If you're going to watch this movie, you should be warned.  The story itself is nothing special.  By that I mean there are no complex plots or really surprising twists.  But you should also remember that this flick came out before the cliches of slasher flicks became prevalent.  So if you see parts that make you want to say "oh, I've seen that before", keep in mind that back then, it hasn't really been done much at all.  I reckon you'll see a review for the Maniac remake here down the road.  But I felt the original needed to be talked about first.

Movie rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Slasher rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

-Ken B. is a maniac, maniac on the floor.

Twitter:  @BoonsBuckles, @KenBucklesworth

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