Frank Zito (Wood) is a mannequin restorer living a reclusive lifestyle in his dingy store. By day he obsessively fiddles with his antiques and talks to the voices in his head, but by night he stalks the streets for potential prey. He meets a pretty photographer named Anna (Nora Arnezeder) who is impressed with his collection and wants to utilise them for her art opening, and the two seem to hit it off. Frank becomes enamoured but doesn't want to kill her, so he scours dating sites for unwitting victims instead. He has a fondness for scalping his victims after they have been strangled, and decorates his mannequins with them as he tries to recreate the various women in his life, including his mother, who we learn from flashbacks was promiscuous to say the least. Alone in his room, Frank communicates with the figures, using insect repellent as the flies gather around the decomposing flesh. With Anna, he seems to have finally developed a normal, sustainable relationship, until he finds out she has a boyfriend.
A lot of positive things have been said about Maniac, from the ambitious technical approach to the against-type performance from Wood. While it gets tiresome rather quickly, the POV gimmick is at least interesting, forcing us to try empathise with a remorseless monster as he carries out his heinous crimes, and offering only glimpses of Wood's saucer-eyes in reflections. Yet Wood is merely okay in the role, and most of the plaudits seem to stem from the fact that film plays with our expectations in casting an actor of such small physical stature. Although, in his defence, he spends the majority of time off-screen. The remainder of Maniac consists of extreme, ugly violence towards women, sensationalised ever further by the visual gimmickry on show, and late night chases through inexplicably abandoned streets, where all roads lead to dark alleyways. This schlock approach could almost be forgiven if the film had the aesthetic and mood to get under your skin (something the original succeeded in doing), but it doesn't. It's certainly something gore-hounds will love, but I enjoy my horror served with more substance.
Directed by: Franck Khalfoun
Starring: Elijah Wood, Nora Arnezeder, Genevieve Alexandra, Jan Broberg