A few years back, I walked into one of the last Blockbuster video stores on the eve of their final closing sale. I was looking for wire racks to hang in my horror room, and anything else I could display. They didn’t have much left when it came to real movies; but, I did find a ton of DVD insert cards with which I could plaster on the walls of the horror room. Most of the cards came from films that were completely unheard of. Lots of Redbox and Netflix type crap was all that was left in the video store. I did, however, find the card for Franck Khalfoun film, Maniac. I had heard about this film because it was being put out by IFC Films and was written by High Tension director Alexandre Aja. The man that rang me up, picked up the card for Maniac and said I needed to see it. He said, “it wasn’t just a horror film. It was a work of art.” I told him I would check it out on Netflix. It was at this very moment that I was bitch slapped by irony. I was walking out of a video store, one of the last of my favorite institutions, to watch a film on the very medium (streaming video) that put them out of business.
My sadness was soon cured when I sucked it up and realized my wallet was more important than being able to walk through a video store again. When I got home, I checked out the film. This was not just a great film because Elijah Wood was playing a role unlike any other he had before. It was not great because of the haunting sounds, the brutal and realistic violence, or the experimental first person camera. It was great because all of these things fit together so perfectly. Elijah Wood did an amazing job of playing the very awkward and isolated outcast protagonist. Everything he did, from the tone in his voice to the frightening glances he would give a mirror (which were the only times you would see his face) were scary. He had a glazed over stare that just made me think about how scary the quiet ones can be. Those with that glassy stare that tells you they are not seeing the world the way you are. He captured all of this perfectly.
As a film, it was minimalistic. Simple settings, sounds, and only a few actors made me realize that a whole lot can be done with so little. The first person camera moved slowly and deliberately. This made the moments you saw Elijah’s face, very important. The camera work was innovative but not unnecessarily gimmicky. The director never threw the fact that he was being experimental in the viewer’s face. All in all, this made Khalfoun’s storytelling very effective. And the violence, oh the violence. Aja’s brutal gore in High Tension definitely rubbed off a little on this film. The violence was realistic and, at times, painful to watch. The best part is that all of this leads to a climactic final scene that is the most violent, gory, and mind-blowing of the entire film. This film should get an easy 9/10 from any fan of horror and originality in filmmaking. I found that some of the females were annoying at times, which may cause some people to bring this score down on the grounds of acting. I, however, believe that they were doing this because the main character needed to hate them. Since we were seeing the film through his eyes, we needed to hate them as well. That is why I give this a 10/10. It is a must own film for anyone who appreciates good movies, especially horror. Bloody Disgusting said it was the best horror film of that year. The Blockbuster guy said it was a work of art. I wholeheartedly agree with both of them, and give this film a 10/10.
Check out both Maniac versions on Amazon.