Maniac (Remake – 2012): the deranged and murderous owner of a mannequin shop crosses paths with an artist who understands his appreciation for the figures. Not for the faint hearted, this is packed with violence and gore; in all of the graphic scenes you keep thinking ‘they’ll cut away from it now… Now… NOW?!?!’. These gut-wrenching effects are paired with a deranged and explicit sound design, which makes this very unnerving and creepy to watch. Elijah Wood is sufficiently creepy-looking and charming – although he doesn’t get the same chance to push his range as this version is mostly shot from his point of view (POV). Because of the POV shooting, brutal sound effects and explicit gore you feel more like a participant than an observer, which works disturbingly well in the voyeuristic and chase sequences. The original Maniac is great, and still holds up today, but times have changed and this one ups the ante in every aspect, becoming more shocking by comparison, whilst retaining a certain retro ‘video nasty’ / ‘classic exploitation‘ vibe (aided by plenty homages and similarities to the original, and an exquisite post-Drive 1980s synth soundtrack.) On a scale of ‘one to creepy’ this is CREEPY AS FUCK and – like the original – although this is 100% unrecommendable, the Maniac remake is an exploitation and slasher masterpiece.
Maniac (Original – 1980): A psychopathic killer is on a spree in New York, terrorising and scalping the public. This one bursts out the gates with two pretty graphic murders, and is evenly punctuated with some full-on eye-opening, jaw-dropping gore throughout. Once scene in particular had me completely shocked – which is a total rarity. Joe Spinell puts in a top shift as the unhinged lead; switching from feral, deranged and demented through to normal, vulnerable, childlike, and charming. The audio helps emphasise the unsettling vibes the movie gives, with creepy internal dialogue and an off-kilter synth/electro track for tension building. It’s visually strange too, with creepy mannequins, seedy New York locations, and a bizarrely open ending. Put this all together and you have a film that’s way above the standard of the genre, and arguably beyond the taste of other slashers from this era. Dark, completely bonkers, and still genuinely shocking 35 years on; Maniac is a thoroughbred slasher film that’s difficult to enjoy, easy to appreciate – but ultimately hard to recommend to anyone that doesn’t like video nasties.
2001: A Space Odyssey: or oddity! (Blu Ray) Apes and astronauts try to solve a 4 million year old secret of our universe. Be under no illusion, this is more about the (then) ground-breaking special effects than story – and considering what the standards were, they’re beyond impressive. The landscapes and space ships are astonishingly Intricate, and the complex ‘gravity-defying’ set-pieces are mind-blowing, many have become iconic through the years. The picture and sound are definitely reference material: particularly the epic orchestrated pieces that pump through all speakers & work the bass. The physics are also spot on, which you can’t say about many sci-fi films! But then there’s the down-side… The first 25 minutes is just a bizarre ape racket, there are several long ‘space ballet’ type scenes, loads of ridiculously dragged-out & slow shots, minutes of pure blackness with ominous sounds, and a few chunks of painfully unwatchable psychedelia. The ‘Jupiter Mission’ section was the only part that I enjoyed as it actually had some story and drama: the camp / murderous / paranoid computer Hal and Keir Dullea’s intensity, which stole the show for me. The ending is incoherent, illogical and disappointing. I fully appreciate that in 1968 (before the original moon landing!) this would have been a ground-breaking awe-inspiring epic extravaganza – and despite advances in effects, it still fares well – but it doesn’t make up for the lack of story or substance. 2001 is constantly lauded as one of the best films ever, which maybe raised my expectations too high but to me this would be best enjoyed on drugs. Lots of drugs.