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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

'Maniac:' A 'Psycho' for the 2010s or Frodo Has Left the Shire



The immediate response of "FRODO!" when learning of the June 21 IFC Center and VOD premiere of the new Elijah Wood psychological thriller "Maniac" explains this not-too gory departure from reviewing vintage films and television shows. Also, IFC successfully finding a real niche regarding broadcasting a wide range of thrillers and just plain ole slasher flicks suggested that "Maniac" would be worth watching.

Additionally, reading that Wood's character Frank owned a mannequin store created great expectations of opportunities for Andrew McCarthy and Kim Cattrall jokes. (Google it millenials.) However, Frank is much more a perverse Geppetto than a hapless companion of a re-animated ancient Egyptian.

The biggest surprise regarding "Maniac" is that it is a remake of a 1980 slasher flick by the same name. This raises good hopes that Keanu Reeves' comments regarding a new "Bill and Ted" (Google it millenials) movie is more than just talk. Wyld Stallyns Rule!

Even before "Maniac" delves into Frank's really intense mommy issues, Wood's wonderfully creepy emo performance as he stalks and kills 20-something women evokes strong thoughts of "Psycho's" Norman Bates. Frank "enhancing" his mannequins with the trophies from his kill and carrying on conversations with these wax women further validates that Wood is  channeling Anthony Perkins.

The audience additionally virtually sees madman Frank's evil mind thinking horribly sick thoughts as he develops a friendship with a young female artist who admires the quality of Frank's mannequins.

"Maniac" also borrows "Psycho's" technique of largely being a silent film. Much of the action involves watching Frank silently locate and stalk his next victim, killing them, or silently enjoying quality time with his inanimate harem.

"Maniac" employs the additional arty technique of showing everything from Frank's perspective, or POV, when he is engaged in a hunt and completes his kill. We only see his face during these scenes if it is reflected in a mirror, a window, or another reflective surface. This somewhat makes him seem more like a monster than a man.

Full candor requires specifying that "Maniac" does not achieve the same level of quality as "Psycho." It is simple a good psychological thriller that is a nice homage to Hitchcock's classic.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Maniac" or "FRODO!" is welcome to email me.