It’s hard for me to recommend this remake of the William Lustig “classic” from 1980. The original MANIAC was always a tough pill to swallow due to its grimy and disturbing glimpse into the soul of a psychotic killer. Frank Zito has severe mommy issues and he kills to satiate his sexual desires, keeping a bloody scalp as a trophy. Said scalp is then attached to a mannequin dressed to resemble the victim so they will always be with Frank.
The new version, which substitutes Elijah Wood (VERY far from the Shire here) for Joe Spinell, pretty much follows the same plot with some updating of the supporting characters. Given that it closely adheres to the original, it’s perplexing why they would bother to remake it.
The big difference, which is more of a gimmick, is that the entire movie (other than a few fantasy sequences) is shot entirely in first person from Frank’s POV. We see glimpses of Frank every time he happens to look into a mirror or catches himself in a reflection. This takes subjective camera to a whole new level and harkens back to films like Michael Powell’s PEEPING TOM (1960), which certainly had its influence on the original MANIAC. Though Powell’s much criticized film (for its violence towards women) is a far superior film if you are hankering to get into the mind of a psychopath.
This new MANIAC is produced by the team that brought you the great but gruesome HIGH TENSION (2005) and the not so great P2 (2007). Like these other films, MANIAC is unrelenting in its violence. It doesn’t shy away from the gore, which is at times excessive and brutal. I’m not one to call movies like this misogynistic, because I feel that’s a cop out. The story is about a killer of women, which makes it intrinsically misogynistic. But if you are sensitive to this degree of violence directed at women, I highly suggest giving this film a pass…or watch I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (1978) to balance it out.