Macabre Movie Mausoleum: Maniac

Do you know the best thing about having insomnia my little grave toppers and tombstones? The near limitless time I have to watch movies, of course. Sit and enjoy another epitaph from the Macabre Movie Mausoleum.

“Maniac” (2012)  

Director: Frank Khalfoun

Stars: Elijah Wood, Nora Arnezeder, and America Olivio

Elijah Wood stars as Frank, a recluse vintage mannequin restorer (apparently that’s a thing). He also happens to spend his nights hunting and scalping women.  He takes pelts of the women’s hair and makes mannequins designed to resemble his victims. He then treats these creations as if they were his girlfriends.  Throughout the movie we see what happened with his mom during his childhood that set him on this path, and his internal struggles with what’s going on in his mind.

One of the more clever things the creators did was to shoot the entire movie from Frank’s point of view.  This technique literally puts the viewer in the main character’s shoes, and does a fantastic job of building suspense.

The major arc of the movie involves a female photographer that hires Frank to supply his mannequins for her upcoming art exhibit.  He begins developing feelings for her, as one would expect in this type of movie, which leads to a conflict with his girlfriends, and an internal debate with his darker self. Does Frank allow this woman into his life and alter his comfort zone, or does he stick with what he knows and add her to his stable of mannequin girlfriends?

A big problem I have with movies, horror ones especially, is when the director/writer treats the audience as a group of morons that needs everything spelled out explicitly. Maniac doesn’t suffer from that. It gives just enough clues for the audience to figure out Frank’s motives and even the internal struggle he has. None of it is laid bare, instead the viewer needs to dedicate a minimal amount of effort to make the connections between what’s being shown/said and what’s being intentionally withheld.

Maniac starts with the premise of a standard slasher flick. However, the shooting style and intelligent decision to not explain everything going on inside Frank’s head separates this from your average fare. The ability of the viewer to make logical conclusions on their own, without being hit in the head with an already bloody sledgehammer, makes the experience more enjoyable for everyone involved. Additionally, anytime you see Elijah Wood in a movie, especially an independent one, you know you’re in store for a noteworthy performance.

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