Franck Khalfoun’s Maniac is a stylishly brutal horror film that wraps its bloody hands around your throat and never lets go. Khalfoun’s remake centers around a serial killer with a fetish for scalps who is on the hunt. Frank is the withdrawn owner of a mannequin store, but his life changes when young artist Anna appears asking for his help with her new exhibition. As their friendship develops and Frank’s obsession escalates, it becomes clear that she has unleashed a long-repressed compulsion to stalk and kill.
Directors like Khalfoun are the reason why I’m notoriously optimistic when it comes to remakes. Maniac proves that you can inject terrifying new life into a story that has already been told and why we should be more accepting of remakes rather than write them off the moment they are announced. Yes, most fail. However, when they succeed, we get a film like Maniac and man is it one hell of a ride.
The film’s strongest element as well as Khalfoun’s most surprising approach to the film was shooting it almost entirely in the point of view of Elijah Wood’s character Frank — putting the audience in the mind of the killer. This tactic was truly terrifying and a fantastic way to experience a horror film. You often just hear the heavy breathing of Frank as he stalks his victims and all you can see is his trembling bloody hands. By shooting a film this way the director traps the audience in the body of a killer almost forcing you to do these horrible things with the Maniac. It’s such a different way to experience a horror film but it really pays off in the end. Typically what makes a horror film scary is not knowing where the killer is or which corner he could be around next but that’s not the case with Maniacbecause we know exactly where he is at all times, adding an entirely new element to the film. Sometimes knowing exactly where the monster is can be more terrifying than not knowing at all and that was certainly the case with Maniac.
Elijah Wood’s gritty performance as Frank is absolutely haunting and unforgettable. The fact that we rarely see his face speaks volumes as to how great of an actor he is. We often only see his face through a reflection in a mirror and because it’s such a rare moment to actually see the killer, Wood uses every second to his advantage by showing the deep pain in his eyes.
The film is an absolute blast for anyone willing to take a seat behind the eyes of a Maniac and the final moments of the film are utterly jaw dropping as it all comes crashing down in front of a few blood soaked mannequins.