maniac | remake | franck khalfoun | alexandre aja | gregory levasseur | elijah wood | nora arnezeder | america olivo | france | united states | megan duffy | genevieve alexandra | liane balaban | jan broberg | slasher | biran ames | aaron colom | joshua delagarza
Director: Franck Khalfoun
Writer: Alexandre Aja and Grégory Levasseur
Starring: Elijah Wood, Nora Arnezeder and America Olivo
To start this out, I’ll be honest about something. I took this home from Family Video when I saw it coming out and had no idea this was a remake at the time. After seeing this, it made me want to seek the original out so I will give it credit there. I had not seen this since that initial viewing, but I did enjoy it that first time. The synopsis here is as the owner of a mannequin shop helps a young artist with her upcoming exhibition, he tries to suppress his deadly desires.
We start out with two women leaving a club. One of them is Judy (Liane Balaban). Her friend grabs a cab and she waits for the next one. A guy hits on her, trying to get her to leave in a limo with him and his friends. During this we hear breathing and someone whispering to themselves. We see all of this from the eyes of Frank (Elijah Wood). Judy flees, still looking for a cab. She notices Frank’s slow-moving van following her. She ends up running away. He knows where she lives and cuts off the power in her building. She doesn’t hear him as she unlocks her door. He kills her with a knife, scalping her when he’s done.
The next day we see Frank using a dating website. He is looking at Judy’s profile before closing it and going to the next one. He hits it off with this another woman in a chat and they setup a date. The woman is Lucie (Megan Duffy). The two of them have fun, but we see some of the weirdness of Frank. He states he’s afflicted with migraines. When they come on, it gets brighter and there is a loud tone. He goes into the bathroom and takes medicine for it.
Frank ends up driving Lucie home and she invites him up. She pours him a drink, and then gets undressed. He isn’t used to it and tries to leave, but she gets him into her bed. He loses control and kills her as well. We see how mentally unstable he is here and is upset that he killed this woman he liked. He scalps her as well.
As the synopsis states, he runs a mannequin shop. He brings home the scalps and staples them to different mannequins he does up to look like his victims. The title of the movie is fitting and Frank loses control, thinking they come to life. We also get to learn a bit of his back-story, involving his mother (America Olivo).
The next morning Frank notices a woman taking pictures of his shop. He opens the shutters and she apologizes. The woman is an artist by the name of Anna (Nora Arnezeder). She is fascinated by Frank’s shop and wants to use his mannequins in her upcoming show. He is leery at first, but the two of them hit it off. She is completely forthcoming though and Frank is teetering on the edge of madness. Can he hold it together though?
That is where I’m going to leave my recap. What I will say is that I’m updating this review after giving this movie a rewatch after all these years. Since then, I’ve seen a lot more, including the original movie this is based on. I’ve heard a lot about this movie between my viewings and there are some things that I want to bring up first.
What I like about a remake is taking what we get in the original, keeping the feel or story elements and doing your own thing. The original was set in New York City back in the 1980’s. It was gritty and grimy. I like that this one changes it to Los Angeles. We are still getting a bit of that, but we are dealing more with an art crowd you get there. The character name of our lead is the same with Frank, what he is doing to his victims and what messed him up are also in line with that original.
That is where I want to shift to next, the character of Frank. He is messed up because his mother was fooling around with men. He could see what she was doing. It has messed him up to the point where when he gets turned on, he is killing his victims. This psychosis is quite interesting. There seems to be a bit that he is killing his mother every time he kills a woman or maybe even a bit where he has created her persona within him that is doing it. I like having Wood take on this role. He is a good-looking guy so I could see some of these women being disarmed by him, allowing him to attack as he does. That works for me.
An interesting topic was debated on a podcast about the character of Anna. She seems interested in Frank when they first meet. They are hanging out, getting food together and what not. It turns out though that she as a boyfriend. Is she wrong for leading him on? My answer isn’t an easy one. She can have guy friends if the expectations are set from the beginning. She is French though, so I could see a bit of a cultural gap there. What is interesting though is that Frank embodies the nice guy persona as well. When things don’t go his way, he snaps.
Where I want to take this next is another change here, we are getting everything from Frank’s point of view. Now slashers are known for this, so I love the care that we take for this. It makes for interesting cinematography to be honest. Going along with this idea, slasher films are also known for the ‘male gaze’. Everything we are seeing is for the benefit there. It feels like this movie is embracing that and I dig it. Of course, not everything is done this way, but a good majority.
Then going from here I want to talk about the effects. They went practical with most everything that I could tell and it looks good. The blood and the viciousness of some of the kills are well done also. It is staying in the same vein as the original. That I can appreciate. There is a bit of CGI, but I think they do well with it to enhance when it is needed. Some of this is used for more of the surreal elements as Frank descends deeper into madness.
Then the last thing I want to go into would be the acting. I’ve said my piece on Wood, so I’ll move past that. Arnezeder I think does well as our main woman here. Frank’s sanity is all balanced on her. It isn’t fair, but I think she does well at disarming him. I liked Balaban, Jan Broberg and Duffy as his other victims. Olivo also does well as his mother. Overall, I’d say the rest of the cast rounded this out and help to guide Frank to where he ends up.
So then with that said, I think this is a great remake. It is taking the heart of what the original one had and doing its own thing with it. We get a great performance from Wood and I’d say the rest of the cast help to guide him where he ends up. The effects are on point and I mean the practical ones along with the CGI. I like the POV angle that we use for most of this. Something I haven’t brought up yet was how good the soundtrack was as well. This movie has an interesting concept and premise that could be based in reality for sure. I believe this movie to be good that is bordering on great for me.
My Rating: 8.5 out of 10