Maniac opens from the point of view of a man who is watching, from his car, 2 drunken girls stagger out of a club. One hails a cab leaving the other alone, shortly afterwards she is approached by a man who wants her to come & party with him & his friends. This is the first time we hear the man whose eyes we see through as he mutters under his breath telling the man to leave her alone.
She gets rid of the man hassling her & begins to walk off to a cab that has stopped, it sharply pulls away leaving her frustrated by the side of the road so she starts walking & the man in the car starts following slowly.
She quickly becomes aware of the car following her on the other side of the road & begins to speed up which proves to be difficult in heels. Fortunately for her she manages to escape but not before we hear the man say that he knows where she lives.
He follows her home & cuts the electrics knocking the lights out on her floor. Feeling safe inside her apartment block she doesn’t concern herself much with the lights being out & makes her way to her apartment door, the man follows.
As she opens her door she becomes aware of someone behind her so she turns to see & a large knife gets shoved through her throat upwards. The look on her face as a hand reaches out & caresses her face declaring ‘she is beautiful’ before the knife is removed & she is promptly scalped.
All of this & the remaining movie is done using a POV camera angle; it is quite something to watch.
As you can tell from that opening Manic doesn’t mess around. A remake of the 1980 film of the same name it’s lead role is played by Lord of the Rings star, Elijah Wood. Something that I initially thought would be a problem but I was wrong (I’ll come back to this).
Frank is a messed up man with serious mummy issues…it seems she moonlighted as a prostitute as well as running the mannequin sale business during the day. His childhood involved seeing his mother bringing clients home or having him wait in the car while she earned money on the street. This has left struggling to interact with women & his sexual impulses turn into violent acts.
With his mother now dead, Frank has taken over the business & attaches his victim’s scalped hair onto mannequins to serve as his companions. He uses an online dating site to meet women in the hope of finding love but after one mistakes his attempts to not kill her as shyness she pushes herself on him resulting in her death.
Eventually Frank meets Anna, a photographer who has taken an interest in his mannequin restoration projects & wants to use them in her art show. Frank falls for her & makes efforts to deal with his murderous ways in the hope that they will be together…but his urges are getting harder to deny.
There are 3 main things that I can praise Manic for:
1. The POV camera style throughout the entire movie is something I’ve never experienced before. It was excellent & at times really made you feel like you were looking through his eyes. The only time you see Franks face is in reflective objects.
2. The music – 80’s synth style. On par with Halloween, Exorcist etc.
3. Elijah Woods is absolutely brilliant – the man is always going to struggle getting away from begin Frodo Baggins & by the end of this movie I saw him in a completely different way.
These 3 things combined as well as some really shocking moments of gore gave me a horror movie that had me on the edge of my seat. On one hand I felt sorry for Frank; his fixation with hair came from having to brush his mothers before she went out on the ‘game’, having to hide in a cupboard while his mother went to bed with clients & her refusal to stay in when he asked her too made him feel unwanted & unloved.
On the flipside I found I had to remind myself that he still chose not to seek help & that he still gave into his urges, I didn’t want to empathise too much with him.
If I had a complaint it would be that the last 20 minutes feels a bit messy compared with the pacing of the rest of the movie. It’s a minor complaint as Frank’s sloppiness makes sense considering what takes place within the last 20 minutes.
The ending isn’t a huge surprise if you’ve been paying attention throughout the movie but it is pretty nasty to watch (especially if you’re not a fan of limbs being ripped off) & fits the story that has been told so well.
This isn’t a film to watch as a family, its nasty & brutal showing exactly what it would be like to give into the urges that say ‘kill’. Impressively acted & with a killer soundtrack to boot, Manic is one of the best horrors I’ve seen this year.