The French remake of cult favorite slasher, MANIAC, stars Elijah Wood as the highly unstable Frank, through whose eyes we see most of the events of the film. Following up on a beloved classic slasher is a daunting task, and like we’ve seen countless times before, the chances of surpassing the original are slim to none. But mostly none. So let’s go ahead and skip the “this isn’t as good as the original” song and dance, because that’s a pointless waste of breath these days. In order to enjoy any horror remakes, it’s best to approach it as an homage to the original rather than an attempt to outdo it.
MANIAC follows Frank, a scarred and mentally disturbed young man (far younger looking in this case than in the original, since he is portrayed by baby-faced Elijah Wood). Do to some childhood events that are revealed throughout the course of the film, Frank seems to have an uncontrollable urge to maim and kill women, despite his obvious desire for companionship. When he meets an photographer who wants to use his mannequins for a photoshoot, he fights his urges to try to keep her friendship.
Nora Arnezeder (SAFE HOUSE) stars as Anna alongside Elijah Wood. Megan Duffy (PURGATORY HOUSE), Genevieve Alexandra (PIRANHA 3D), and Jan Broberg (SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENTS) co-star. The acting is quite convincing throughout, and Wood does crazy well. But what makes everything even better is the brilliant camerawork. It’s nothing like a found-footage film with a shaky first-person camera, but rather a gorgeously shot point-of-view of the maniac himself. There’s a smooth and polished quality to it, but it remains fairly raw. There’s really no re-creating the harsh look and feel of the original, but this remake seemed to take that rough, grim feel and adjust it for the 21st century.
Unfortunately, there are a few moments where the effects don’t feel quite real, and appear to be at least assisted by CG. A majority of the effects are practical, however, and are very well done, including many a scalping.
As a whole, although many will compare it to the original and be disappointed as always, MANIAC is one of the better horror films thus far in 2013. It doesn’t follow too closely to the original story-wise, and doesn’t feel as much like a remake as many others do. It also avoids the two pitfalls of most remakes: it doesn’t mock or disrespect the original (which is bound to piss fans off), and it also doesn’t try to re-frame the original scene-for-scene.
The intense first-person perspective is interesting to watch, and puts the viewer up close to everything. The original was infamous for its drawn-out murders that were framed to feel very personal, and now that that has been done a hundred times, this remake expanded the personal touch to put the viewer even closer to each and every kill. So sure, it’s not the original, just like no remake will ever be, but MANIAC is one hell of a good watch. And apparently the French continue to lead in the brutal horror film market, as they have these past several years.