Sunday 17 March 2013

Maniac (2013) - Franck Khalfoun

Are those big blue eyes really the eyes of a killer?

It’s the first image we see of Elijah Wood’s Frank in this remake of the 1980 horror film Maniac.  Clearly looking to shake his Hobbit image, since Lord of the Rings Wood has chosen disturbing, psychotic roles as in Sin City and here, but this slasher film will do nothing to further his career.

Maniac is not the character study into psychosis it could have been.  Frank restores broken mannequins and dresses them with the scalps of beautiful women that he murders, their beauty frozen and preserved.  His home becomes a Frankenstein gallery of mannequin partners and body parts – the character’s name is a blatant reference to Shelley’s gothic novel.  Later we see Frank watching The Cabinet of Dr Caligari in another piece of obvious symbolism.  The narrative features few new ideas with a script of stilted dialogue that lacks credibility.  Particularly laughable are the split personality monologues that have more than a faint whiff of Gollum.  Beyond some weird urges disguised as migraines and an odd relationship with his dead mother, disappointingly we never discover the root of Frank’s psychosis.

Khalfoun’s choice of perspective is the only point of interest.  Filmed solely using a hand camera with moody noir lighting, we watch the action through the eyes of Frank.  It creates a visceral experience that presents the violence in full view – the first gruesome death comes within the first six minutes.  Yet with the lack of depth to the narrative, this perspective is simply a twisted form of voyeurism that diminishes the film to gore porn for anyone who desires to watch beautiful women meet a grizzly end.  The final, nightmarish scene is particularly shocking.

“Sometimes I think they have more personality than most people”, claims Frank when discussing his work.  Sadly, both he and his victims are as plastic as the mannequins he restores.