This remake sees Elijah Wood putting in a career-best performance as Frank, a messed up mannequin store owner who spends his nights stalking young women through the streets of L.A.
From the opening moments, the film pushes you towards the edge of a towering cliff and then spends 90 minutes dangling you over the seedy darkness below. This bone-chilling quality is wonderfully balanced and is most effective when the action on screen gets so depraved that you want to hide behind your pillow, yet the film never lets you. Instead, you are left glued to Frank’s steadily fall into the abyss.
Wood’s performance is made even more impressive by the fact he spends most of the running time off-camera, with the vast majority shot from his sociopathic point-of-view. This creates a disturbing emotional connection between the audience and Frank, with the former coerced into an uneasy sense of empathy that exposes us to mind-numbing pangs of guilt.
Like all the best horror films, Maniac also has a message, giving some kind of justification for all the skin-crawling bloodshed and sleaziness. Admittedly, it’s nothing you won’t have seen before, but it shines a light upon the darkest recesses of our twisted society causing us to re-evaluate the effect we could be having upon certain unstable and vulnerable individuals.
Through all the bleakness, Maniac is impossible to ignore and even in its trim running time it manages to deliver a real emotional punch that leaves you winded, but hungry for more.