I’m not here to endorse the film Maniac. On the contrary, I’m here to say that if horror films -in particular the serial killer chasing the beautiful girl type- don’t float your boat, then this one is certainly not going to make you think twice about the genre. In fact, a lot of folks would find this film deplorable. I’m not one of those folks. I think “art” can come in all shapes and sizes, and can make us feel all kinds of emotion. From joy to sadness, from fear to disgust. We can still revile something, yet it can still be art. I guess that leads one to question what their definition of art is. Well, in my personal opinion art is something created from an idea with the specific purpose to get a reaction out of others. Good or bad. There’s the intention to a. create, and b. get a reaction. Some people want to give something to the world that can be loved, admired, adored; or at the very least be appreciated. But some people want to s**t on your face and say “Voila!!” Well, I’m here to say that this film is neither of those. Despite all the talk of how shocking this film is, the bottom line is that it’s a stylized horror flick in the vein of some of Michael Mann’s better stuff from the 80s, but with the history of a schlocky 1980 cult horror film.
Here’s a synopsis: Guy has serious mommy issues due to mommy being a prostitute and bringing “Johns” home to get the work done while future serial killer little boy Frankie hides in the closet as mommy earns cereal money with two dudes at a time. Frank grows up a loner with a job as mannequin restorer. In order to make the mannequin’s more “real”, he hunts down beautiful women and rids them of their pesky scalp. He then staples the scalps to the mannequins and has heart-to-heart conversations with his mom, aka the bloody mannequins.
Sounds wholesome, huh?
Well, if this were a trashy,exploitive dumpfest then this Frank character would’ve taken pleasure in what he was doing. But there was nothing like that. This is about as tortured and screwed up as you get in the world of “psychopath-with-an-oedipus-complex”. Now why I sat through this film is because as a 14 year old I sat through the original Maniac starring Joe Spinell and was terrified along with my best friend so badly we sat up all night waiting for department store dummies to appear and disembowel us. It left a mark on our psyche. We still to this day talk about that Saturday night. So when he saw they were remaking it we knew out of respect for our 14 year old selves that we needed to sit through it. You know, heal. So Saturday night with a strong drink in hand we sat through the remake of Maniac starring Elijah Wood. How was it? As good as something with that premise can be. It was a very well-made movie with a pretty disturbing storyline. Everyone in it did a fine job. Like I said, if you’ve seen the Mann flicks, plus Refn’s Drive, then you have an idea of how good this movie looked. Not how good it was, but how good it looked.
But I’m not here to tell you to watch this movie.
I’m here to tell you to check out the soundtrack. It’s amazing. It’s atmospheric, melancholy, mournful, and slightly eerie. It’s all centered around a synth and electronics, with one 80s-like pop gem called “Juno”, sung by Chloe Alper(yeah, I don’t know who she is either). The score was written and performed by a guy only known as “Rob”. Very mysterious, I know. Here’s the thing, I eat up these soundtracks. They’re so emotive. They’re so expressive. The movie could be complete shite(and most of the time they are), but there’s usually some guy that pours his heart and soul into making damn sure you at least have something great to listen to. Of all those soundtracks, this is one of the best. If you like 80s synths and quiet music to reflect about life to, then seek this one out. I’d suggest the Death Waltz version, so you don’t have to look at such a graphic artist’s rendition of the movie on the album cover like I have with the Mondo version. But hey, like you’ll really look for this anyways. Here’s a couple samples for you to check out. And as for the movie, well, I think you know whether you want to sit through it or not. I’ve made peace with that Saturday night in 1988, so I’m good with it.