One day, Frank is caught off guard by a lovely French photographer named Anna who shares a common interest with him – mannequins. While Frank restores mannequins in his warehouse, Anna loves to photograph them. She also has an art exhibit in which she projects her face onto faceless mannequins. These two would seem perfect for one another, only Anna has no idea just how damaged Frank is. And it is no wonder that Frank is as messed up as he is. Throughout the film, we see flashbacks of his early childhood. Frank’s mother was a prostitute who used to participate in threesomes in front of her little boy. On two occasions, we see her carry on with the various men in her lives, in the bedroom and on the street corner, right in front of her son. Frank naturally harbors much resentment towards his promiscuous mother, and this is one factor that drives him to commit these horrible, graphic murders.
Frank finds that he is falling for Anna. It is much harder for him to act on his impulses around her. These two individuals form a tender bond and find comfort in each others company. But this is hardly a love story. It’s only a matter of time before the evil inside of Frank takes over completely.
Maniac was directed by Franck Khalfoun and produced by Alexandre Aja, the latter of whom has directed such films as High Tension and the gruesome remake of The Hills Have Eyes. Unlike the original, this remake of Maniac has plenty of style to spare. The entire film is shot from Frank’s POV. Khalfoun places us in Frank’s shoes. We only catch glimpses of his face in reflections from time to time. This is a gimmicky technique that actually serves the film well. The glorious synth-score from composer Rob is one of the best that I have heard all year long, and it really drives home the gritty retro feel that the director is going for. It heightens the entire experience from the opening credits onward.
The performances are incredible. Elijah Wood has never been better than he is here, filling the shoes of a truly demented character, and pulling off the enormous task of making him somewhat sympathetic. Nora Arnezeder is fantastic as Anna, and we worry for her as Frank begins to lose his grip on reality. Actress Megan Duffy is quite memorable as one of Frank’s unfortunate victims, as well.
Every film buff should see Maniac as soon as possible. It does not disappoint, and it’s better than half of the so-called “horror” that is unleashed upon audiences these days. Recommended!
Watch the trailer here.