Elijah Wood has had a very strange career. He started in typical kid’s fare like The Adventures of Huck Finn, North and Flipper. Then he eventually hit it huge with the Lord of the Rings trilogy. At that point you assume oh man, Elijah is going to be huge now and headlining all sorts of big movies. Instead, he has been taking roles in smaller movies, and also trying to ensure we are all terrified of him with roles like the one in Sin City.
If you weren’t terrified of him then, watch Maniac. You will never trust Elijah Wood again.
I have actually never seen the original Maniac so I can’t compare this one to that one. I know the original was very controversial and apparently pretty messed up, but I don’t know the details as to why. This one doesn’t have nearly the level of controversy attached to it, but it certainly qualifies as a fucked up piece of work.
Elijah Wood is Frank, a young guy whose mother passed away a year before and he know runs their antique store where he restores mannequins. Sounds pretty innocent overall right? Yeah well what if I told you that he restores those mannequins using HUMAN SCALPS! AHHHHH! Not so innocent now huh?! It turns out Frank is kind of fucked up and has mommy and intimacy issues. I have to admit though, he’s pretty damn good at this whole mannequin restoration thing. Like don’t get me wrong I think women should get to keep their scalps, even for the sake of art, but this guy clearly knows what’s he doing and it’s a pretty unique talent so good for him!
Actually I lied earlier, I know one more thing about the original Maniac movie. The entire thing is shown from the perspective of the killer, which is a pretty unique way to do things. The remake does the same thing, but it takes it all a step further by having it literally take place from Frank’s perspective. Seriously, you see the entire movie from his point of view. This idea could be nothing more than a gimmick, but it proves to be very effective, providing a unique and very unpleasant experience. You’re forced to sit there and watch all the terrible shit this guy does from his own perspective and you almost start to feel bad, like you are somehow responsible for all of it. You occasionally catch a glimpse of Wood’s face in a mirror, but largely it’s POV and it works far better than I ever expected.
Considering he hardly ever appears on screen, Wood is fantastic in this. He plays the role clearly unhinged without going over the top, and he is also completely terrifying. Any times where Frank is acting normal, such as during an early scene where he is on a first date with a girl he met online, you almost believe this guy can be normal but you know there is a violent outburst just around the corner and waiting for it to happen can be brutal at times. Though for that first date, why in the hell would that girl feel “Goodbye Horses” was an appropriate song to put on? Even if her date wasn’t a secret crazy man with murderous intentions, it’s definitely not a good idea to put on music that would make just about anyone think about serial killers. Silly move potentially scalped girl.
Eventually Frank meets Anna, a young artist who he helps set-up an exhibition. This is where the tension really kicks in. You’ve already watched Frank do a ton of awful shit, and now here he is in a budding relationship with a nice girl who reminded me a lot of Keira Knightly. You want things to work out ok and for this guy to curb his scalping instincts and it all helps to create an unending sense of dread. When is he going to snap? Is he going to snap? Why is Frodo so terrifying?
I should also mention that this movie does not shy away from the violence and gore, but unlike a lot of the movies I’ve watched this month, it’s not fun in any way. All of the violence is harsh and disturbing, some of it crossing over into the realm of unpleasantness. I read that apparently some screenings in theatres resulted in people vomiting and fainting. I don’t know about all that, but it’s certainly hard to watch a few of the grislier scenes here.
Maniac does not make for easy watching but it’s a very well made movie with a clever hook that is used effectively. It’s likely not something I will be too eager to revisit in the future, but it makes for one hell of an intense initial viewing.