MANIAC (1980) Review

Directed by: William Lustig
Starring: Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro, Abigail Clayton

MANIAC opens on a beach at sundown. A shady grunting character puts a quarter into a pay-per-view binocular set. The camera cuts to a POV shot then pans to a young couple laying in the sand. Cut to the couple. The boy walks off in search of wood to start a fire. Cut to the girl. She is still laying down, gloved hands come into the shot. She is under the impression that its her boy friend. Her throat gets cut. The boy returns and all is apparently well. Before he could think otherwise razor wire wraps around his neck and he gets lifted off the ground. The camera pans to his shoes that are getting splattered with blood, the boy is now dead and in the throes of death rattle.
A man wakes up in a strange room screaming. He gets up and starts weeping. In bed in next to him is a bloody mannequin. MANIAC. It is here that you are introduced to the killer two minutes and forty seconds into the film!

MANIAC is a unique horror film for its time. I haven't seen many films before this that follow the killer or allows you to glimpse at his daily struggle to remain sane. There are even shots from the killers point of view! The only pre-MANIAC film I can think of that is similar in its use of character study and POV shots is Peeping-Tom. There are of course giallo films but you find out who the killer is late in the film with very few hints of what their motive may be.

I could imagine how this movie would've pissed off the censors and parent associations world wide. There are many unsettling moments in this piece. One of them is a big internal monologue where  Frank Zito (the maniac) is rearranging his mannequin collection. He takes the bloody mannequin off of his bed and begins chastising it. He replaces it with a brand new one. While mumbling to him self and deciding what sexy underwear to put on the doll the internal monologue begins. In a pleading voice he says This is going to have to stop. A harsher voice insists that all women are evil They are all the same.

Frank Zito's personalities are arguing with each other while he is dressing up a mannequin. The cherry on the cake is a recently acquired scalp from a prostitute being nailed to the mannequins head. What an artfully fucked up scene.
Another scene I should mention is the shot-gun decapitation of Tom Savini's character, with Tom Savini special effects. It is an explosion that rivals the one in Scanners.

Although this isn't a perfect film the character development is fantastic, the film itself tightly edited along with a highly unsettling sound track. Bill Lustig has directed a great film but I think the prize should go to Joe Spinell for his role of Frank. What a dynamic acting range that man has.

I give this here film four and a half prostitute scalps out of five prostitute scalps.

No comments:

Post a Comment