Maniac (2012) review
Maniac stars Elijah Wood as Frank and is directed by Franck Khalfoun. The “Maniac” soundtrack uses music from other well-known horror films. Personally, I enjoy cross-referencing within the genre and this worked very well for me.
Sadly, Maniac falls prey to a time-tested cliché. Mother issues cause Frank, the male killer, to relive and re-enact his anger again and again, directing it towards the women he encounters. This aside, the film is both interesting and intense. The frequently used first-person camera angle is disorientating and uncomfortably effective. It brings the viewer inside the mind of the Maniac, allowing us to experience his inability to keep a tangible grip on reality.
Frank’s perception of his mother’s lack of maternal affection replays in memories or hallucinations throughout the movie. These benefit from very blurred lines between fact and fiction. They show that it does not matter whether the serial killer had a “bad” mother, only that he believes he did: the true badge of irrational hatred.
Six minutes in, the first kill is as brutal and elegant as any I have seen. Unfortunately, the flash up of the “Maniac” title in bold red and the music used, cheapen the effect.
The hunting of new victims via internet chat and the scenes of Frank driving around the city, watching and waiting, lend the film an exceedingly creepy stalker ambience. The locations of chases and murders play on very real fears: the empty subway station, the night-time car park and the unlit corridor. As a woman, watching the film, it is intensely disturbing to see learned fears of dangerous urban environments replayed again and again.
None of the women Frank chooses are portrayed as “natural victims”. They are not shown to deserve or surrender willingly to their deaths. Each time it seems to be their strength that attracts Frank to them.
If killing is about sex at all, it is that Frank feels sexless, unable to give women what he believes they crave. This makes him feel unworthy and angry. He wants to tame them so they can accept the love he is able to give. However, his mind never allows them to be tamed. Even his mannequins confuse and horrify him with their sexualities.
The awkward, overly-chatty, fiddling with hair, nervousness of his “first date” feels very real. His elevated paranoia and migraines allow the viewer to have a drop of sympathy for Frank, which helps carry us through his story. Through his eyes, we see the beauty, strength and uniqueness of each victim. Rather than dehumanising these women, Frank seems to be terrified of them because they are so human and vital. It seems as though he envies their humanity and wants to steal it from them.
The central story is a relationship that grows between Frank and a French artist, Anna. It allows us to wonder whether he might be redeemable and displays an aspect of his personality able and eager to admire a woman. Of course, as per the horror cliché, she inevitably disappoints him and he returns to his self-created hell.