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Netflix it: Maniac

by Kaitlin Lyle

A warning to potential viewers: the movie “Maniac” is not for the faint of heart.

Even for one who enjoys an occasional fright, this cinephile can’t seem to stomach the cut tendons, bloodshed that leans towards excessive levels and scalping. Enter Hollywood heartthrob Elijah Wood who triumphs over the semi-weak for an 89-minute period in “Maniac”.

In this gory 2012 remake of the 1980 slasher film, Elijah Wood stars as Frank Zito, the shy owner of a mannequin shop by day, who drifts into a more sinister hobby come nightfall. Behind his innocent facade lies the darkness of repressed homicidal urges that surface in the form of stalking and scalping countless women.

Through glimpses of Frank’s jarring memory, the audience becomes vaguely aware that these murderous tendencies are the result of psychological trauma. Watching his mother moonlight as a prostitute has prevented him from sustaining healthy relationships with women.

Enter Anna, a beautiful French photographer with a specialty for giving mannequins life in the form of photo-personification. As a new friendship begins, Frank falls in love (a rare occurrence in the horror genre, particularly for a couple that is purely human), and his homicidal urges mixed with these rising emotions grow more difficult to keep under control.

With the striking imbalance between his murderous tendencies and newfound companionship, the maniac of Frank’s personality then begins to expand into horrifying levels.

The film itself is shot from the killer’s point of view, in which we are only able to see his face in brief reflections. It is through this artistically eerie method of screening that the audience is given the ability to see what Frank sees and the angle of which he observes it: his surroundings, his hallucinations, his memories and his victims. Through Frank’s perspective we find ourselves locked into his mindset for the duration of the film, as though we are the ones acting out his decisions. Yet we are unable to control the agonizing wait that comes in, lingering over each step Frank takes.

The film pays fitting tribute to both “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” in visual appearance and “The Silence of the Lambs” in playing Buffalo Bill’s theme, “Goodbye Horses” by Q. Lazzarus.

One aspect that I found to be a particular source of anxiety was hidden in how realistic the characterization of Frank is portrayed. Instead of chainsaw-wielding psychos or fedora-fitted dream demons, this kind of psychopathic killer comes as a worrisome source of reality’s nightmares; a murderer targeting vulnerable young women is indeed a scenario capable of occurring anywhere around the world.

Even accounting for the gruesome quantity of graphic violence exhibited throughout, “Maniac” manages to generate startling cinema quality for those seeking a gory thrill for the month of October.