Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Maniac: Bad Hair Day
its 1980’s heyday, Times Square was the place to find hipsters and lowlifes in
close proximity. Today, if you need a
similar ambiance for a remake of William Lustig’s grindhouse fan favorite Maniac, there is only one place to go:
Los Angeles. You might well ask why
someone would want to remake Lustig’s schlocker, but Franck Khalfoun has, so
here it is, opening this Friday in New York at the IFC Center (trailer here).
Khalfoun’s reboot, Frank Zitto still has a thing for mannequins and mother
issues that give Norman Bates pause. No
longer a schlubby apartment super, he is now the nebbish proprietor of his
family’s mannequin supply company.
Business is about as brisk as it is at the Bates Motel, allowing Zitto
plenty of time to prey on women. For
Zitto, it is all about the hair. When a
coif strikes his fancy, he stalks the owner, killing and scalping her. He brings his trophies home to adorn his
personal stash of mannequins.
all logic, Zitto develops an ambiguous friendship with a woman. Anna, a French expat and experimental
photographer, shares his fascination with mannequins. Instead of killing her, he starts to have
relationship notions. However, his
homicidal urges continue unabated.
Elijah Wood receives top billing, he is mostly heard rather than seen throughout
Khalfoun’s Maniac. In a dubious attempt to be provocative,
Khalfoun shows the grisly events unfold through Zitto’s eyes. Initially, this gimmick is only moderately
annoying, but it becomes progressively more so as the film slogs along.
Wood as the psycho killer is a bit problematic, because most of his victims
could keep him at bay simply by palming his forehead. Regardless, the film’s misogynistic impulses
are far more troubling. It is not
content to dispatch Megan Duffy’s inked-up Lucie in typically gruesome
fashion. It first forces her to
voluntarily relinquish her dignity. Frankly,
the cheap thrills in this Maniac are
better described as cheap rather than thrilling. Yet, somehow Khalfoun’s Maniac has arthouse pretensions, even bringing the classy Nora
Arnezeder aboard as Anna. Unfortunately,
her winning screen presence is undermined by the character’s profoundly poor
One could raise a host of issues with the film,
but the bottom line is it just isn’t any fun.
Still, in their way, both Maniacs 1.0
and 2.0 are a tribute to the Giuliani transformation of 42nd
Street. The fact that such grubby
exploitation is now at odds with the City is a good thing for those of us who
live here. Not recommended, Khalfoun’s Maniac opens Friday (6/21) at the IFC
Center for its built-in grindhouse fan base.
Labels: Horror Movies, Remakes