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Franck Khalfoun
Elijah Wood, Nora Arnezeder
Writing Credits:
Alexandre Aja (screenplay), Grégory Levasseur (screenplay) and Joe Spinell (original screenplay)

I warned you not to go out tonight.

Frank (Elijah Wood, The Lord of the Rings) leads a deceptively peaceful life: to the outside world, he s a withdrawn and somewhat eccentric owner of a mannequin store. But his quiet façade masks an inner rage that forces him to brutally kill the women who manage to get too close to him.

Box Office:
$6 million.
Opening Weekend
$5,571 on one screen
Domestic Gross

Not Rated

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English PCM Lossless 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 89 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 10/15/2013

• Audio Commentary with Director Franck Khalfoun, Executive Producer Alix Taylor and Actor Elijah Wood
• “Making of” Documentary
• Five Deleted Scenes
• Poster Gallery
• Trailer and Previews


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Maniac [Blu-Ray] (2013)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 12, 2014)

A remake of a 1980 horror cult classic, 2012’s Maniac introduces us to Frank Zito (Elijah Wood), a mentally disturbed young man. Frank stalks women, kills and scalps them. He then attaches his “trophies” to mannequins he takes from his family’s business.

One day Frank sees an art photographer named Anna (Nora Arnezeder) outside his shop. She likes the restoration work he did with the mannequins and wants to shoot them for an exhibit. We follow their relationship and how it affects Frank as well as his continued serial killing exploits.

Two unusual choices mark Maniac. The most obvious comes from its photographic/narrative style, as we see the entire film first-person. This means we observe everything solely from Frank’s POV – in a literal way, as the camera acts as his eyes.

That’s an interesting decision but not one that I think adds to the movie. Honestly, the first-person photography always feels like a gimmick. Whatever immediacy it may add to the proceedings gets negated by the pointlessness of the technique.

We don’t need to literally see things from the character’s visual perspective to get into his head, and I think a more traditional POV would’ve worked better, as it wouldn’t call so much attention to itself. I spent much of the movie more curious about the methods used to film Maniac than about the story or characters; the technical elements came to the forefront in a way that made them a distraction.

The second unusual choice stems from the casting of Wood. Best-known for the “nice guy” roles he played in flicks like Happy Feet and Lord of the Rings, Wood plays firmly against type as the mentally troubled Frank.

Unfortunately, Wood overdoes it. From the start, Frank seems like such a creepy nut that it’s hard to believe he fools anyone. Why would women want to spend time with this weirdo? I guess we’re supposed to accept Frank as “nice” due to Wood’s image, but he turns on the oddball factor so strongly that it doesn’t fly.

Maniac also wears its influences on its sleeve too heavily. It feels like Michael Mann mixed with Taxi Driver, and it even dares to use the song “Goodbye Horses” at one point. Best-known as the tune Jame Gumb dances to in Silence of the Lambs, its appearance here comes across as a self-conscious allusion.

While it’s a daring move, it doesn’t succeed. One should never prompt audiences to think of better movies as they watch yours; as soon as “Horses” appears, Lambs comes to mind and I begin to wonder why I don’t watch it instead of Maniac.

Let’s not ignore the movie’s “depth”, as it saddles Frank with serious mommy issues. Perhaps the filmmakers hope those elements will give it some meaning, but they feel gratuitous – and they once again force us to think of a superior movie, as Maniac often comes across like a bloodier variation on Psycho

Adding to these issues, Maniac comes with a tedious narrative. Essentially it alternates Frank’s stalking/killing scenes with those of him with Anna. It ends up with a “lather, rinse, repeat” feel, as this framework becomes tiresome before too long.

Ultimately, Maniac goes nowhere. It tries to remake a cheap old slasher film as art house fare and fails miserably. All its pretensions add up to nothing more than a boring, ugly experience for the viewer.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

Maniac appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. The movie came with a good presentation.

Sharpness was usually fine. Occasional wide shots looked a bit tentative, but those remained in the minority, so most of the flick seemed concise and accurate. No issues with jaggies or shimmering materialized, and I saw no signs of edge haloes or noise reduction. Print flaws also remained absent.

In terms of colors, Maniac tended toward muted tones. Stalking shots went with a sickly blue, while those with Anna opted for an amber feel. A few more dynamic hues occasionally appeared – such as some garish red/purples for Frank’s flashbacks – and the colors seemed fine for the movie’s intentions.

Blacks were a little mushy but not bad; they could’ve used more depth but they seemed adequate. Shadows felt into the same category, as low-light shots tended to lack the clarity I’d like. Still, they worked fine, and the whole package wound up as a “B”.

With its attempts to put us in the lead character’s head, the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack provided a pretty active environment. Street/stalking scenes gave us a good feeling for the settings, and moments of Frank’s psychoses opened up well to surround us with his mental situation. The various components meshed together well and created an involving atmosphere.

Audio quality pleased, as speech seemed natural and distinctive. Music was vibrant and full, while effects sounded accurate and dynamic. The soundtrack suited the narrative and created a firm “B+” mix.

The disc includes a decent set of extras, and these open with an audio commentary from director Franck Khalfoun, executive producer Alix Taylor and actor Elijah Wood. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific look at sets and locations, the film’s unusual point of view and cinematography, cast and performances, effects and makeup, music, and some other areas.

While not devoid of useful information, the commentary proves to be too slow and dull to add much to the experience. We get the occasional productive nugget but not enough of them to redeem the track. Maybe others will get more from the chat than I did, but I felt it was a fairly boring and uninspiring listen.

Next comes a documentary simply titled Making of. It runs one hour, six minutes, and 21 seconds as it delivers notes from Khalfoun, Wood, Taylor, writer/producer Alexandre Aja, director of photography/camera operator Maxime Alexandre, special makeup effects artist Mike McCarty, composer Rob and actors Nora Arnazeder and Megan Duffy. The show looks at the original 1980 film and adapting/changing it, story/character areas, camerawork and the use of first-person POV, cast and performances, makeup and effects, music and the film’s showing at Cannes.

After the boring commentary, I feared the documentary would also drag. Happily, it works pretty well, as it covers the movie in a satisfying manner. We find plenty of good footage from the set and learn a lot about the production. From start to finish, this turns into a useful piece.

Five Deleted Scenes fill a total of four minutes, nine seconds. The first three occupy barely a minute total; they just show minutiae with Frank and are pretty useless. Scene Four shows an encounter between the police and Frank, while the fifth sequence lets us view how Frank first met one of his later victims. The police segment is less intriguing than one might think, but the final one has some merit.

A Poster Gallery offers a whopping three images. These are reasonably interesting.

The disc opens with ads for Antiviral, Room 237, Byzantium, Plus One and Simon Killer. The set also provides the trailer for Maniac.

Though I never saw the original Maniac, I can’t imagine it’s any worse than this pointless remake. Burdened by an ineffective “first-person” point of view, the movie lacks any entertainment value as it limps along. The Blu-ray delivers pretty good picture and audio along with inconsistent bonus materials. As a release, this is positive package but the film doesn’t work.

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