Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Elijah Wood attempts manhood in the Franck Khalfoun remake, MANIAC

Mommy's little boy grows up (or actually, doesn't) in the homage-y remake MANIAC, in which Elijah Wood (partially shown on poster at left and more completely two photos below) who will perhaps remain best-known for his excellent work in the Lord of the Rings series, tries desperately to mature into a knife-wielding killer who murders and then scalps young and middle-aged women in order to supply the right kind of wigs for his mannequin collection. The young actor is not bad (although his sometimes amazing physical strength seems rather to belie his slight frame,) but I'm afraid this latest outing is as ill-advised as was his work in and choice of the earlier Green Street Hooligans.

Director Franck Khalfoun (shown at right), who a few years back gave us the smart underground parking lot thriller, P2, has here opted for the more envelope-pushing route of gore galore (sometimes mixed with vomit!). Ah, yes: This should be quite enticing, for some. The filmmaker has also produced an homage-to-the-original kind of movie in which I noticed at least one shot that fairly screams, "Remember this?!" from the earlier version, directed by William Lustig. The POV -- usually hand-held, nice n' close, and too-often jiggly -- grows tiresome and headache-producing after awhile. However, those mannequins prove, as mannequins so often do, to be quite photogenic and fun.

TrustMovies could (and perhaps should) have passed on this film, as he is getting to the age at which a horror flick has to be pretty damned good to hold his interest. The main reason he wanted to see Maniac was its leading lady, Nora Arnezeder, below, who was so lovely, graceful and charming a few years back in the wonderful musical/history/memory piece, Paris 36 -- in which she sang, danced and performed like a champ. Here, she exhibits that same charm, though she is not called upon to offer much musical skill. She's absent for most of the first third of the film, rivets our non-hero for the second, and then is stalked by him for the remainder.

Mr. Wood proves adept enough at acting (and looking) looney. Those Keane-like pop eyes in a super-youthful face actually lend themselves to creepiness when called upon. (The actor even gets his own Lady Macbeth scene!) One of the big problems with the film, for anyone who has ever lived in L.A. -- and particularly these days -- is that the place looks so deserted you'd think it is barely inhabited. The subway scene, in particular, is ridiculous.

Scene after scene defies logic, as our murdering creep-bag stalks and ices woman after woman with nary an interruption. One of the best sections involves a performance artist/dancer's stalking that take a surprise turn and then begins all over again. Otherwise it's mostly ugly, vicious and way too long and repetitive -- even at only an 89-minute running time.

Psychologically speaking, and as the motive for all this, we get once again the good ol' mommy figure, who comes complete with her own little secret, which is neither very surprising nor interesting, though it does seem to send our little creep into killer-mode conniptions. Aw, mom! Some things never change.

Maniac, from IFC Midnight (and unlike the recent Berberian Sound Studio,  perfect for this particular IFC series) hits theaters this Friday, June 21 (in New York City, it will play at the IFC Center) and will simultaneously be available via VOD. Go crazy, gore fans!

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