Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Remake Comparison Project - I Warned You Not to Go Out Tonight

Cody and Priscilla see horror through the eyes of a Maniac in 1980 and 2012.

MANIAC (1980)

This month's Remake Comparison article took Priscilla and I back to a sub-genre of horror that we're both quite fond of, the slasher. But even though we're both fans of slasher movies in general and those that were made in the '80s in particular, we're not so enamored with the slasher we're covering here... At least, we weren't when we began working on the article. Did breaking it and its remake down for comparison change our minds? Read on to find out...

Cinephile William Lustig made his own entrance into the world of filmmaking by directing a couple of pornos under a pseudonym. Porn, softcore and otherwise, was a way that several filmmakers used to get their foot in the door back in the day; for example Sean S. Cunningham (Friday the 13th) and Wes Craven (The Hills Have Eyes) also did some adult industry dabbling. The idea for the first film that Lustig would put his own name on came from a friend of his, who suggested that he should make a movie that was like "Jaws on land". This was right in the aftermath of Jaws becoming a huge sensation in the summer of 1975, so it seemed like a very good idea.

Lustig took this three word concept to Joe Spinell, who was a high profile character actor at the time. He had appeared in The Godfather and its sequel, Taxi Driver, Rocky and Rocky II, he was working with Al Pacino, Frank Sinatra, and Robert Redford, he was friends with Steven Spielberg. Even though he was working on bigger films, Spinell was also drawn to the idea of working with Lustig on a low budget independent film.

It was decided that the "monster" in this "Jaws on land" movie should be a serial killer, to be played by Spinell, and Spinell was given complete control over creating his character while Lustig devised the murder sequences, drawing inspiration from the giallos that were flooding out of Italy at the time.

Lustig and Spinell had only raised a $48,000 budget by the time filming began, figuring that if they were already working on the movie other investors would get on board as they went. They ended up raising $135,000 total, largely thanks to the husband of lead actress Caroline Munro. The giallo-minded Lustig had originally cast Daria Nicolodi, Dario Argento's wife and Suspiria co-writer, to play the role of photographer Anna D'Antoni, but Nicolodi had to drop out. Munro, who was a Bond girl in 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me, had several horror and sci-fi credits to her name, and had co-starred with Spinell in the 1978 movie Starcrash, first learned about the movie during an appearance at a Fangoria Weekend of Horrors convention, where Maniac's special effects artist Tom Savini was also a guest and brought it up to her. Munro and her husband got involved with the project under the condition that the role of Anna be expanded.

Specifically because it was inspired by the line "Jaws on land", the film begins on a beach, where a young couple are preparing to spend the night.

Different people like different things. This is the couple's idea of a good time. Me, I'd have to be going through a rough patch in life to be sleeping on a public beach with a cooler, campfire, and a couple of blankets.

I guess it could be fun, though that seems like roughing it a bit too much. It'd look a little more appealing with a tent, at least.

When the guy goes off to collect some driftwood for their fire, a mysterious figure who has been spying on the couple makes his move, brutally and bloodily murdering them.

The first couple of minutes of the movie are very promising. I like the opening scene a lot.

Their killer is a man named Frank Zito, who lives in a shoddy little apartment full of dolls and mannequins. He even shares his bed with a mannequin. Near his bed is a shrine he has made to his dear, departed mother. The first time we're shown the interior of Frank's apartment, he's in bed, waking up screaming. This begins the opening title sequence, during which we watch Frank get out of bed, examine the burn scars on his chest, get dressed and head out on the town. New York City.

The images of this sequence are accompanied by the theme composed by Jay Chattaway. I like the music, but I also find it somewhat depressing... Something about it reminds me of the music in the original version of The Vanishing, too.

It gets a little overwhelming at times, but it's an okay score overall.

While walking around the city, Frank is propositioned by a prostitute and accepts the offer. He gets a room in a hotel where William Lustig makes a director's cameo as the guy working the front desk. Frank's time in the room with the prostitute starts out awkward and gets worse when he snaps and strangles the life out of the woman.

I wonder why she was wearing a mix of workout /ballet clothes and disco clothes especially when it looks cold outside.

Once she's dead, he hurries to the bathroom and vomits, then comes out crying, saying he didn't want to kill her, acting like he was forced to. Then he pulls out a knife and scalps her. The scalping element was added to the film by Savini, who felt it would unnerve the audience even more - it's one thing to be murdered, it's another to have your corpse so terribly disfigured.

It's a shame whenever a person dies bloody, whether through murder or an accident. Frank and Savini made certain that these people die bloody.

The mannequin Frank sleeps with has someone's scalp stuck on top of its head, and after the murder of the prostitute he brings home another mannequin, which he proceeds to stick her scalp onto. As he does, we're given insight into Frank's mental state through a voiceover. There are two different personalities arguing in his head. He has to go out sometimes, but every time he does the other personality takes over and kills people. Driven to kill by these women he meets. He's afraid that if the authorities find out about this, they'll take his imaginary companion away from him.

The half of Frank that argues that he can't live this way loses and he goes back out into the night, this time armed with a shotgun. Frank's next victims are a man and woman who he watches leave a disco together. The man is played by Tom Savini, who took on the role because he already had a cast of his own head sitting around in his shop. That spare Savini head came in handy for what's going to happen.

Frank follows the couple to an empty parking lot, where they stop with lustful intentions. Before they can do anything, Frank jumps up on the hood of the car and fires his shotgun through the windshield, blowing the man's head apart.

Even though the shotgun seems out of place as Frank's weapon of choice, I like that it was used here, because it makes sense. The couple can actually see Frank standing outside, in front of the car, so you think they might get away. They would have, if Frank was carrying the usual knife or even a machete. But since he has a shotgun, they do not escape.

This is probably the most famous scene in the movie. Before I had ever seen Maniac, I would read references to it in magazines like Fangoria, and the shotgun scene always seemed to be the main focus. "You have to see the shotgun scene!" It is impressive. Tom Savini always could blow up a head real well.

After killing the couple, Frank goes home and talks to himself some more about the evils of fancy girls and worries that "they'll take you away from me".

A clear pattern has developed in this film. There's a murder sequence, a scene with Frank in his apartment, then another murder sequence, etc.

Wandering around the city during the day, Frank passes through a park where photographer Anna D'Antoni happens to be snapping pictures.

This park seems so depressing. All grey with dry trees...not a nice place for kids, but it matches the mood of the movie.

Anna catches Frank's attention when she catches him in one of the shots. While she's away from her bag, he wanders over to it, and it just happens to have a tag on it with her address.

Anna is a very trusting person. Leaves her bag completely unattended, with tags right there for everyone to see. Ah, the '80s!

Hey, this scene is a break in the pattern!

Frank's wandering stretches on into the night. Passing by stores, he admires the mannequins through the front windows, running his hands over the glass and groaning to himself. Then Frank ends up in front of a hospital, where two nurses are getting off work for the night.

Shouldn't nurses change clothes before leaving the hospital? Seems weird that they wouldn't.

One nurse gets a ride home, but the other has to find her own way home. The luckier of the two nurses is played by Sharon Mitchell, who Lustig worked with on his very first (porn) movie, The Violation of Claudia.

She played Claudia, and was apparently violated.

I'm sure she was.

Frank follows the other nurse into the subway, and she realizes she's being followed. A chase ensues, with the nurse eventually thinking that she has lost Frank by hiding in a restroom. Just when she thinks she's safe, Frank is there to impale her.

The nurse chase scene is one of the best in the movie. Pretty intense and suspenseful.

Frank takes her scalp home, and although he's disappointed that the hair is soaked with blood, he's still satisfied enough that he starts making that groaning sound again once the scalp is nailed to the head of a mannequin.

Anna is at home, developing pictures in her personal dark room, when Frank shows up at her door. But this is a cleaned up, presentable Frank, wearing a suit. He sits down with Anna and has a pleasant conversation with her, and seems so nice and normal that she even agrees to go out to dinner with him.

We see a different side of Frank in these scenes, a side that appears to be able to interact with people and function in society. This is good for the movie, because up until this point, the first 50 minutes, I have felt like there has been nothing going on. And yet, not all of these scenes were originally intended to be in the movie. Remember, the role of Anna was expanded. If this is the expanded version, I can't imagine how empty the movie would have seemed if Munro and her husband hadn't joined it, or how short the script must have been.

During its first 25 to 35 minutes, the movie feels like it drags, and there's too much of the same. In a way, Anna kind of saves the movie. I wish she was around for more scenes, and that Munro had more to do.

Through his interaction with Anna, we learn more about Frank. He had a beautiful mother who was taken from him in an automobile accident when he was younger. He tells Anna that if he were a photographer like she is, he would keep the pictures forever because they capture people in a certain time in their lives and preserve their beauty forever. Anna says that you can't possess someone forever.

A guy with mommy issues who wants to keep someone around forever. Sounds like a certain Psycho...

Can't go wrong with a guy with mommy issues. Those are usually fascinatingly disturbed people.

One strange thing about Frank and Anna is how they're almost immediately talking like people who are in a relationship; him showing annoyance at her busy schedule and the idea that a bunch of men will be at her art show, the way she tells him he'll have to deal with it. They just met a few minutes ago.

I had doubts about that during my first viewing. I guess Anna was just that type of woman. Warm, lovely and embracing.

The next time Frank sees Anna is when he drops by one of her photo shoots and gifts her with a teddy bear. As he watches Anna take pictures of three girls, Frank's murderous personality starts to surface. Focusing on a model named Rita, whose photo he had admired earlier, he starts groaning.

His groaning is so gross. Just completely disgusting.

The song "Goin' to a Showdown" by Don Armando's 2nd Avenue Rhumba Band plays during the photo shoot, and continues to play in my head for days after I've watched this movie.

While Rita is distracted, Frank steals a necklace that she said her mother gave to her. She isn't without it for long. Frank follows her back to her apartment, and after a gratuitous bathtub scene -

Can you guess what sort of movies actress Gail Lawrence made before this?

Yes, it's pretty obvious. Though the scene was brief, so it didn't really become distracting or anything.

- attacks her and ties her up on her bed. The helpless Rita is subject to another of Frank's insane monologues. He thinks she's his mother. She looks different, her hair is different, but he knows it's her. Now that he has her back, he's going to keep her forever.

There's a shot of the outside of Rita's apartment building that creeps me out. There are so many people out on the street, going about their lives, totally unaware that there's a woman being menaced by a maniac inside that building. She's so close to people that could help, but they're out of reach. I guess that's the reality of horrible things that occur in cities.

True, we're used to watching movies where bad things happen when people are far away from everyone else, pretty much out of reach. But being surrounded by people doesn't exactly grant you protection, either.

Frank airs his grievances with his mother - she always left him alone and he was afraid to stay alone. She would lock him in the closet. She slept with so many men just for "some dollars", but they didn't love her, Frank loved her. Then, so he can keep Rita/his mommy forever, Frank kills her and scalps her. Her scalp ends up on a new mannequin bedmate.

At home, talking to himself while going back and forth between the personality of his mother and his own stunted self, Frank puts out a cigarette on the chest of a mannequin - showing how he got those scars on his chest, his mother used to burn him.

Some women aren't meant to be mothers. It's as true in movies as it is in real life.

Some time after this, Anna accepts Frank's invitation to accompany him to a show. As Frank drives her through the city, she thanks him for attending Rita's funeral and getting flowers.

Might have been an interesting scene for us to see instead of hearing about. Maybe they couldn't pull off a funeral on their budget.

It's Christmastime, and Frank has a wreath he wants to put on his mother's grave before he and Anna go to the show. Anna visits the grave with him, and as they stand there Frank snaps. He attacks her and chases her through the cemetery, but after defending herself with a shovel she's able to escape.

It got dark really fast from when they were in the car. Must've been far from where they were.

That's when Frank breaks down more than he ever has before. He starts hearing the voices of his mother and his younger self. He returns to his mother's grave... and her rotting corpse reaches up out of the ground and grabs him. A nod to Carrie.

As George Romero would attest, if you're going to put a zombie in your movie, its good to have Tom Savini around to make your zombie.

Frank stumbles back home, where his insane mind hallucinates that the scalp-wearing dummies are coming alive and want revenge.

I'm really not clear on why this happens. Simply because Anna's shovel hurt his arm, Frank's mind completely implodes?

I think it has more to do with the fact that now one of his would be victims actually managed to escape. In his head, even as troubled as it is, he knows that he could be taken away any minute now, that this is his "demise". Or at the very least the end of what he does, and what he does probably was what kept him alive, in his mind.

Maniac is a very popular film among horror fans, but it's never been a favorite of mine. There's just not enough going on here to hold my interest and make me want to watch the movie with any regularity. Joe Spinell did a fine job creating a character who lives up to the title, Frank Zito is one of the most unpleasant people you could ever hope to see in a movie, I just wish there was more to the movie around him. There's not much substance here.

I've only seen Maniac 1980 twice. I absolutely hated it the first time. I think it had some to do with all the hype... it just really didn't live up to it. I could barely make it through the whole movie. This time, I didn't hate it. I still think it's a little overrated, but I actually thought a few scenes make the movie better and less boring than I remembered. I still wouldn't call it great, but it's not as bad as I thought it was.

They were aiming for "Jaws on land", but while the shark was very scary as it swam around in the ocean, devouring random people, the movie wasn't made from the shark's perspective. By focusing solely on the guy who wanders around the city, murdering random people, Lustig and Spinell missed out on the part of Jaws that made that movie so great - the characters dealing with the shark. Making their movie from the perspective of the killer is a valid approach, it just doesn't work all that well for me.

Unlike with Jaws, we're supposed to sympathize with Frank. But something about Spinell's performance makes that impossible. It's a great performance, and you realize he had an awful mother and that she put him through hell, but you can never get to a point where you actually feel bad for him. I think it would've worked better if we could. More like it is with Psycho's Norman Bates.

I need a bit more than just murder scenes intercut with a guy talking to himself. Scenes with other characters. I like slasher movies that have some pretty dumb characters, but at least their interactions add a level of entertainment that I don't get from Maniac.

If it wasn't for Anna, then the movie would be pretty much empty as far as characters you grow to care about. But I feel like Caroline Munro did such a good job that it fills that void, at least partially.

Of course, the gore provided by Tom Savini is a major part of why Maniac endures in the horror community. What Savini was doing back in those days was incredible, and he didn't disappoint with this one.

The effects are one of my favorite aspects. The blood might be too light and watery in a few scenes if you look too hard, but other than that, it's all very effective. Very believable.

Interestingly, Frank Zito was named in honor of Lustig's friend Joseph Zito, a director who would go on to work with Savini several times - the following year's slasher The Prowler, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, the Chuck Norris action movie Invasion U.S.A., and the Dolph Lundgren action movie Red Scorpion.

Some of those movies are favorites of mine, so I appreciate honoring Joseph Zito.

With their low budget, Lustig and Spinell managed to make a horror cult classic with Maniac, but for me it's one of those classics where I respect its standing in the genre more than I enjoy watching it.

I feel the same way, though I might be checking it again sooner than I would after my first time watching it. This viewing really wasn't half bad. The parts that are somewhat boring and repetitive didn't stand out to me as much as they did before. There's some good stuff going on there... like the shotgun scene, the nurse chase scene, the effects. And I really like the late '70s/early '80s clothes, makeup and hairstlyes. So, even though I don't exactly love it, I've seen much worse, that's for sure.

MANIAC (2012)

After catching the global horror community's attention with his film High Tension, Alexandre Aja proceeded to take the jobs he needed to in order to build a career in the genre in the mid-2000s, which is to say that he made a bunch of remakes. The Hills Have Eyes. Mirrors. Piranha 3D. When Maniac director sold the remake rights to his 1980 film, that project ended up in Aja's hands as well, but this time Aja opted not to direct. Instead, he and his frequent collaborator Grégory Levasseur wrote the screenplay for Franck Khalfoun, who had brought their original script P2 to the screen, to direct.

Maniac had been a rarity in the slasher sub-genre in that it was told from the perspective of the killer, and Khalfoun, Aja, and Levasseur decided to take that approach as far as possible: their version of the concept is shot almost entirely from the killer's P.O.V.

For the remake, the setting was moved to Los Angeles, and the film begins with serial killer Frank Zito, this time played (mostly in voiceover and reflections) by Elijah Wood, observing a young woman named Judy leaving a club alone. He already knows where she lives, and he drives to her apartment building as the main title sequence plays out.

It is a nice touch that mononymous composer Rob delivered an '80s-esque electronic score for this one. We get our first sample of it here.

I absolutely love the music for the opening scene. Actually, the score/soundtrack is one of the highest points of the remake for me.

By the time Judy has reached her apartment, Frank has cut the electricity in the hallway outside her door. He meets her at the door, and their meeting ends with her dead and scalped.

The scalping doesn't work so well for me in this single take style, because you know there is digital trickery going on. That's just not as involving as practical gore.

The effects here look way too obvious, and at one point Judy's face looks like it's a mannequin's face. Also, he barely slashed her forehead and her whole scalp slid right off. I wasn't pleased with this scene.

This Frank's living quarters are in the back of a shop filled with mannequins. After waking up imagining that he's sleeping beside a girlfriend (she's actually a mannequin), he gets onto the internet and starts browsing a dating site.

This maniac has it easy with the internet... all of the dating sites and social media. Not much work required here.

A true maniac of the 21st century.

Frank's screen name is I M Timid, and his girl of choice is RedLucie86. With a quick chat and a picture of himself, he's able to set up with a date with her. When Frank and Lucie meet at a restaurant, she admits that she was worried he'd turn out to look different than the picture he sent, and the description she gives of what she was afraid he'd look like is a rather unkind description of Joe Spinell's Frank.

Frank has a minor freakout during their dinner, thinking that everyone is staring at him. His vision distorts as he imagines blood pouring down Lucie's face. He has to rush off to the restroom to pop some pills... but their time together still goes so well that when he drives her home, in his van that's full of mannequin parts, she invites him into her apartment.

Lucie puts on the song "Goodbye Horses" by Q Lazzarus, a song known for accompanying a famous moment in The Silence of the Lambs -

Which Priscilla and I watched together not long ago. She may still be traumatized.


As a Kevin Smith devotee, I also have to mention that the song is featured in Clerks II.

I do like the song a lot though...when it doesn't make me think of The Silence of the Lambs.

- then she takes off her clothes and lures Frank into her bedroom. Things go south when he snaps and strangles the life out of her. Once Lucie is dead, two sides of Frank's personality have an argument, "Why can't you leave them alone?" "I hate you!" In an effort to make things better, Frank scalps Lucie... Then goes into her bathroom and vomits.

Things are different, but so far this is sticking closely to the structure of the original. Kill, Frank's place, the possibility of sex disrupted by a kill and vomit, Frank's place.

And let's not forget ugly outfits. Lucie had a very trashy/slutty age-inappropriate schoolgirl outfit on before she undressed. I think I even like the prostitue's weird ballet/workout clothes better. Tough choice though.

Frank returns home and staples Lucie's scalp onto the mannequin's head. Hair, Frank will later say, is the only part of the body that lasts forever, so that's why it's the part he keeps.

Throughout the film, Frank has flashbacks to his life growing up with his dear, departed mother Angela, who is played by America Olivo of Friday the 13th '09. His first flashback occurs here, after a violent argument with his imaginary/mannequin lady friend, as he remembers brushing her hair when he was a child. Future flashbacks won't be so lovely, as on more than occasion he'll remember having to watch his mother do drugs and have sex with strange guys, and not always one-on-one.

I like the fact that we get to see some of young Frank's interactions with his mom. Frank's mother was pretty crappy in the remake too, but I think the one in the original is awful in different ways. Darker ways.

Another day begins with Frank waking up to find photographer Anna (Nora Arnezeder) taking pictures of the mannequins through his shop window. This is what Anna does, she takes pictures of mannequins in an effort to bring them to life with light. Frank restores all styles of mannequins from all eras, and Anna asks to use them in an art show.

This is a relief, the remake gets to Anna in half the time.

Though Caroline Munro's Anna is more likeable, at least comparing their first scenes.

Anna has just come in contact with the wrong guy. As soon as she leaves, Frank is having another freakout, scrubbing his hands with steel wool, and imagining that he made a much deeper connection with her than he did. Then he straps on his knife and goes cruising around the city, scoping out the ladies he passes by.

The next victim Frank chooses is a woman he sees rope dancing. She's played by Genevieve Alexandra, who was already scalped in a previous Aja film, having had a bad experience with a boat propeller in Piranha 3D. Frank spies on her and follows her into the subway. She suspects there's something odd about him, but knows for sure when he can't contain himself and blurts out "You're so beautiful." A chase ensues through an empty subway station and out onto the street.

The subway chase scene from Maniac 1980 is much more effective and creepy.

It seems to be very rare that a movie will acknowledge L.A.'s subway system. Showing it as being shockingly empty probably isn't the best way to promote it, though.

Frank eventually catches the woman by hiding under a vehicle and slashing her Achilles tendon, an injury Aja had been aspiring to work into a movie for a while. Apparently it got close to being included in P2.

As Frank stabs the woman to death, the camera does something it rarely does in this film - drifts out of his P.O.V. and looks at him.

I'm not sure why the camera leaves his P.O.V. Because the other personality has taken over, so he's having an out-of-body moment? But then why wouldn't it leave his P.O.V. during every murder?

I don't know why they did it, but by now the P.O.V. shots are getting a little annoying, so that was a welcome change. Too bad there wasn't more of it.

When Frank leaves the scene with the woman's scalp, his reflection strikes a pose straight off the original film's poster.

My favorite scene from the remake, hands down. Very well done.

After that, the film takes a lengthy break from murder sequences to show the friendship that develops between Frank and Anna. She sets up a deal where faceless mannequins will be standing among the guests at her upcoming gallery show, an idea Frank understands because sometimes mannequins have more personality than people, and this causes them to spend quite a bit of time together. She takes photographs of him as he builds a mannequin, they have lunch in the park, even go to see a movie (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari from 1920).

Through their interactions, we learn a bit more about Frank's situation, that he took over his mother's mannequin shop after she died the previous summer because he couldn't bear to just get rid of the mannequins. Anna knows what he means, she could never throw out her negatives, and she comes to see him as "the last true romantic."

I like the fact that Frank works with mannequins in Maniac 2012. Makes more sense.

The expanded Anna role of the original gets expanded even further in the remake, and it works for the film. It helps, and their interactions feel natural for the most part.

Remake Anna ends up becoming more likeable after a while, so that's nice, too.

When they're apart, though, Frank's mental meltdown continues. He has flashbacks of his mother, talks to his scalp-wearing mannequins, has a nightmare that he is a mannequin. Sometimes he stalks Anna, telling her on the phone that he's too busy to do anything while he's staring right at her. Whenever a boyfriend (Anna has one) or a girlfriend (she thought Frank had one) is brought up, Frank becomes severely agitated and has to leave. He's even hit with a migraine, which is realized on screen through blurry, blown out photography and piercing sound design.

Frank attends Anna's show, where she has projected her face onto the faceless mannequins. He doesn't fit well into her world - he is insulted by Anna's seemingly possessive boyfriend and has a conversation with her agent Rita, who sees mannequins as useless junk.

I sort of expected Frank to kill Anna's boyfriend after their confrontation, but he gets distracted. The guy may not have hair, but Frank wouldn't want to keep him around anyway. They could have recreated the shotgun scene with him.

I would've liked to see that. 

After roughly 17 minutes of character scenes, Frank is back on the prowl, following Rita home from the gallery. With stolen keys, he enters her apartment while she's taking a bath... but he doesn't kill her right away. He ties her up on her bed and accuses her of being his mother. Changing her makeup and hair hasn't fooled him!

At least the Rita actress is a bit more age appropriate to be confused for his mother in this one.

Although his mother did die young, so it makes sense that he'd usually go after younger women. I think Rita doesn't exactly fit the profile. It seems out of character for him to murder her, just like Frank using the shotgun in the original movie.

I think the "tied up mommy" scenes are effective in both films, but I'd have to give the edge to the one in the original due to Spinell's performance during the monologue he delivers.

Frank caresses Rita with his knife while telling her he loves her. She begs for her life, so he assures her that he's not going to kill her, he's going to keep her.

An act which does just happen to involve murdering her.

Not to him apparently. What a creep.

As Frank scalps his new mommy, the camera again drifts out of his P.O.V.

The death of Rita gives Frank the perfect opportunity to get even closer to Anna, especially since she broke up with her boyfriend after leaving the gallery.

Can't blame her, the guy was a jerk.

My favorite exchange in the movie is when Anna bashes him as "such a music guy" and Frank responds that "They can be very pompous."

Frank goes over to her apartment to provide a shoulder for her to cry upon, but things go south into violence when he displays too much knowledge of the murders that have been going on.

There's a bloody altercation in Anna's place, which includes Frank murdering her next door neighbor Martin, before Frank is able to subdue her and drive her back to his home to be his unwilling bride.

Before Frank can get Anna into his place, things go terribly wrong again. This Anna isn't as lucky as her 1980 predecessor was -

Which seems very cheap and unnecessary to me. It reminds me of issues I had with Aja's The Hills Have Eyes, the tendency to take things too far in the name of being cool and edgy.

Things definitely went too far. It was looking like Anna would've been able to escape, just like in the original. And then no...

- but Elijah Wood's Frank does ultimately suffer the same fate as Joe Spinell's did.

Which is also extremely over-the-top this time around.

The Maniac remake is an interesting experiment of a film. I have to admire Aja/Levasseur/Khalfoun's decision to do something truly unique with it, to take a very fresh stylistic approach to their version of the story. Regardless of how it turned out, Maniac 2012 was always going to be a noteworthy film because it was shot in the first-person perspective. While that's cool, I'm conflicted about the result.

The P.O.V. aspect gets a little annoying and distracting at times. I'd have liked the remake better if they had at least done it half and half. I feel like a lot was lost using that perspective. That being said, it is something different, and I appreciate the fact that the elements from the original movie were all here - with some added touches - but still, the movie doesn't feel like a copy of the original.

I feel like the movie works well as it is, but I'm also left wondering if it would have been better if it hadn't been shot from Frank's P.O.V. Elijah Wood's Frank is a bit more of a sympathetic character than Joe Spinell's was, but at the same time I still don't feel all that much for him, because it's difficult to make much of a connection with someone who's not on screen. I think we'd feel for Frank much more if Wood got to do more acting in front of the camera instead of having to convey so much with voiceover.

Elijah Wood mastered whiny creep in this one. If he had more on screen time, I'm pretty sure it would be easier to sympathize with Frank, especially because unlike our original Maniac, he doesn't look sleazy, he's a decent looking guy.

Although it seems to me that original Frank went through much worse growing up than remake Frank did. Frank's mom from 2012 basically looked like she was lost, and resorted to extremely questionable choices and behavior, whereas original Maniac's mom was a downright mean, terrible person. Both were unfit to be parents, but comparing the two of them, I think the mom from Maniac 1980 caused more psychological (not to mention pshysical) damage.

Khalfoun and his camera crew did pull off the P.O.V. stuff extremely well, although moments suffer because of the way some things have to be shot from this perspective. As I said with the first scalping, some moments aren't as effective as they could have been if it had been possible to make more cuts and shoot things from different angles.

Despite not being crazy about the P.O.V. bit personally, I feel like the problem with that specific killing scene had more to do with poor CG than anything else. Most effects worked very well - a couple of my favorites are Rita's scalping and the scene where Anna stabs Frank's hand - but the first scalping really wasn't great.

Aja and Levasseur did a fine job with the new script, staying faithful to the 1980 script but adding exactly what this story always needed: more time with Anna and more character interactions. The remake surpasses the original in that area, fixing it where it was most lacking.

Yes, some aspects I like better in the remake are: more Anna time, more character interactions, the fact that we get to see more of Frank's childhood traumas, and that he works with mannequins. Favorite things about the original are: effects, '80s vibe, look and atmosphere, subway chase scene. So, the two movies have very positive points.

In the end, I would say that both versions of Maniac are worth checking out, while both also have their issues. The remake may be hampered by the P.O.V. aspect and the original needed to spend more time with Anna. If I were to choose to watch only one, I'd probably lean toward the 1980 film, even though I'm kind of tough on it, because it's an '80s film, the aesthetic appeals to me more, and it has Tom Savini gore. But since I don't have to choose just one, I'll be revisiting both from time to time.

I guess it's a tie for me. They both have their merits. I've only seen them twice each, so I feel like they're worthy of more viewings, and hopefully I'll start enjoying them more every time.

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1 comment:

  1. Nice article, just watched the 80s version and completely agreed with you, now on the watch the remake.