Maniac (2012) ***1/2

Maniac (2012) is one of the few horror remakes that justifies its existence by finding that perfect blend of homage whilst carving its own path. On a rewatch, I found Elijah Wood's narration and heavy breathing/grunting a bit too theatrical but the inventive and well-handled POV technique, the incredibly gruesome f/x, and the excellent analog synth score hold up very well.

Working largely from Joe Spinell's story from the original 1980 film but substituting Spinell's sweaty, greasy, overweight Frank for a more slim, affable Norman Bates type, Maniac (2012) ups the gore—including many brutal scalpings—and trades the grime of late 70s NYC for the glamour and sheen of L.A. There are plenty of references to William Lustig's (who gave his blessing and served as a producer) original film, but this is no carbon copy. At times the look and style remind me a bit of Brian De Palma.

The characters are slightly more fleshed out (pardon the pun) than in the 1980 film and the flashbacks to Frank's awful upbringing provide just the right amount of sympathy that we can muster for a serial killer. As with the original film, there's no doubt that many will find the 2012 version misogynistic, but I think this version, as with the 1980 version, can be viewed, in some regards, as a commentary on misogyny. To quote from's review, "There's no ignoring the fact that we're watching women being horrifyingly abused on screen for our moviegoing enjoyment. This doesn't exactly make for a pleasant experience—and it's certainly not date night material—but Maniac does deliver the goods that genre fans expect: explicit gore and white-knuckle terror."