Maniac could so easily have been just another faceless scary movie; a remake of a cultish 80's horror movie from director Franck Khalfoun, who brought us the risible P2. What's more it's been written and produced by Alexandre Aja, who knows a thing or two about horror remakes, having directed the likes of The Hills Have Eyes (good), Mirrors (bad) and Piranha 3D (indescribable). Instead, what we have here is one of the most memorable horror movies of recent years, with its unique style and insane levels violence making sure it stands out from the pack, for better or for worse.
Elijah Wood plays Frank, an owner of a mannequin renovations store by day, and a serial killer by night. With the entire movie shot from his point of view, we get to voyeuristically join Frank as he stalks his victims around an eerily abandoned, rather disgusting part of Los Angeles, culminating with Frank stabbing them to death and then very, VERY explicitly scalping them. These scalps are then brought home and used as wigs on some of his more personal mannequin projects, and it's at his store that Frank encounters Anna (Nora Arnezeder), an artist with an equal interest in mannequins. Is this the woman to help Frank find some level of normalcy, or will she just end up another of his victims?
Believing that someone as "normal" as Anna would spend any amount of time alone with an obvious psycho-level weirdo such as Frank proves a tough pill to swallow, which is just one of the many base level problems with this movie. The explanation for Frank's murderous ways is another big one, amounting to little more than mommy issues, which leaves a bad misogynistic aftertaste throughout the rest of the film. Also, while it is an interesting career choice for Wood to play someone so very disturbed, his dialogue often sounds too much like it was recorded independently of the film shoot, distancing him and us from the action.
But if you're willing to look past of all that, what you're left with is a visually interesting, hugely violent horror film that will lodge itself in your mind for days afterwards. Seriously, this movie is so violent and gory, only the most hardened viewers will be able to stomach it.