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Manuel de Layet [Film Festival 05.30.12] horror slasher thriller crime

Why? Why do people feel the need to adapt movies from thirty-years ago into the present day? Do they really think it's needed? Maniac (trailer) was a self-sufficient slasher, relying on pure gore, violence and creepy soundtrack to convey the dreadful reality of a twisted bloke. Now it's a psychological horror with shot like bad porn with an upbeat new-wave score.

We all know the story, a deranged man venting years of motherly abuse and neglect on various females, killing them and keeping their scalps as a token, a possession of femininity that won't ever leave or hurt him. There's no way to argue that good old fashioned misogyny, tracing back to Eve, isn't always an entertainment winner.

In the long list of changes since the original there are a few things that, in my mind, should not have been done. The most obvious is the choice of filming this in subjective camera. It's like a POV porn from Brazzers: shot subjectively apart from the scenes where the stud comes so we can see his 2 or 3 stock orgasm-faces and a few external or rear shots to get a better view of the minx ass while it's getting pounded. Corollary it also means that the action scenes are just a mess of motion blur and shaking image, that stance rendered worse by the need to get the audience an "insight of the state of mind of the hero" meaning the screen gets blurry and distorted and whatnot each time the guy gets a bad thought or sees tits.

The balance between the use of POV and the need to get some classy looking killing shots completely spoils the intended effect.

The other faux pas is in the choice of Elijah Wood. 12 centimetres and at least 30 kilos under the initial Joe Spinell, he lacks the girth and reach to make a credible killer. There's a nice try to mitigate this, in the shift from the pure slasher to some more "psychological" plot, but it also means that we lose many aspects of the original script.

In the 1980 version, the killer was snuffing both males and females, relying on frontal assault, there was also the duality between the two personalities, the relentless killer and the broken child, completely dissociated and pushing one another. In this opus, since the actor can't pass for a thundering beast, he relies on stealth and stalking. Furthermore the mental disease is less flagrant, making the whole persona feel like a beaten pug trying to bite back.

I might also add that the combination of POV and a small actor can lead to some unexpectedly hilarious sequences. I mean there are many a scene where he's strolling around in his car, prowling for victims, and as the camera barely shows us anything above the hands and the steering wheel it feels like "GTA - Elderly Pensioner Edition."

The killings, like I said earlier, rely mostly on the surprise effect and aren't very creative, there's no colossal improvement in the special effects, unlike the exploding head of Tom Savini in the first one, and they took the stance of making the killer's knife rattle and swish each time it's moved, like the guns in "El Rey de la Montna," another hilarious side effect if there's one. What can possibly go through the head of a sound designer when he's asked to do such thing I wonder. "Hey I want the knife to swish every-time it's moving, like it's cutting the air," like that's gonna make it so much more frightening. "Whatever man."

Of course there's the usual pseudo-psychological crap mixed with cliches around the clock to try and build up the characters and story. Small guy, huge knife, to express the fact he's compensating for his broken-down virility, the good old "we've seen her boobs, she's going to die" trademark of the B-grade slashers, flashbacks from his childhood to try and show why he's such a mess.

On that point it's so watered down it feels numb. Gone are the abuse, the locking in the cupboard, the burnings with cigarettes, from the wretched mother of the original, we have here just sequences of her tamely screwing around and snorting coke.

So, if you never ever watched the original and have no real background in slashers, you can enjoy this one, provided of course you are in the target audience. I'm not. I confess that the biggest appeal for me was Megan Duffy, but that's mostly because I'm a complete sucker for pint-sized redheads. This is what happens when you get a more-or-less cult movie from the eighties and try to adapt it to the "modern" sensibilities of our day.

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