Maniac (1980)

What is a better way to begin the weekend while eating breakfast than watch a demented slasher movie? Not a damn thing. I was a bit concerned whether or not the original could possibly live up to the remake, which in many ways was one of the better scary movies I’ve seen in many years,  but my fears were fortunately proven false. Out of the two versions I only slightly prefer the remake more, and only because the POV gimmick is just that great. The original Maniac is a great slasher movie and apart from a handful of minor details, like the very run down look of the late 70s New York City, it hasn’t dated at all. The movie still has a strong punch to it and the special effects are actually very well made, especially given how low the budget was. Much of the movie was actually shot guerrilla-style because they couldn’t afford permits from the city, which in my opinion, works well in the movie’s favor. No pun intended, it gives the movie a bit of a manic feel.

One thing I think this version did better was that Frank literally is a bit of a maniac, rather than just a demented serial killer stalking women. While he does specifically targets girls for their scalps, he is very much an equal opportunity killer who doesn’t mind offing his target’s male companions too with his big arsenal of weapons. Be it with a shotgun, bayonet, piano wire, or his own two hands choking down his victim, Frank is  the man who gets the job done.  In the remake Frank restored mannequins as his job and it was a family business he had taken over, so using the mannequins as his trophy collection by dressing them up as his victims and attaching the bloody scalps to them was weird and all, but felt a bit like it was a  sexual fetish for him. In the original, I would argue it works a tiny bit better because it feels so much more demented, because you get things like Frank having to haul a new mannequin into his tiny apartment after each new kill from somewhere, and there’s a little scene where Frank is shown fawning over mannequins he sees on shop window displays.  The background for the mannequins also isn’t explained very clearly, so you inevitably begin to wonder just how he developed such a weird and time consuming form for his trophy gallery. It’s the little touches like that that make the more so wonderfully disturbing and creepy.


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