Friday, July 9, 2010

Film #32: Maniac (1980)

Frank thought he found a killer girl.
Even after Frank stalked her from Central Park to her apartment, Anna D’Antoni was totally cool with inviting the stranger in and going on an immediate date.
She felt flattered when Frank pulled out his creeper line “you are the most beautiful woman I have seen since my mother.”
Then the stunning high-class artist didn’t even think twice about Frank’s odd request in the middle of their second date to stop by his mother’s grave so he could pray and leave a crusty wreath.

The shlub had it made! But then olde Frank’s head-voices started up again, and he just had to try and choke the life out of Anna while graveside.
Only then did she run like hell. Why do all the good ones get scared off so easily!?

It is clear Frank, the main madman in this week’s flick “Maniac,” needs a lesson or two on courtship. The RDHP have found that, for some reason, dates don’t like it when you confuse them with your dead mother and try to kill them. Pfff! Women!? Right, fellas!

Frank is all sorts of messed up when it comes to the fairer sex.
We first meet him in his psychotic New York City apartment, where various shrines pay tribute to his long deceased mother. Frankie’s mother was not your typical Mrs. Cleaver type. First off, she was a stripper and prostitute who would make Frank hide in the closet while she performed her dirty tricks. “So many men, touching her” Frank laments at one point. When whittle Frank protested, he’d get a few cigarettes put out on his chest for mouthing off to mother.

So, yeah, Frank has mother issues. But with her dead from an “automobile accident” a few years back, that should have been the end of his torment, right? Nope. What really sucks is he starts seeing Dear Mommy’s face in every woman he encounters, years after her death. Unable to contain his building rage against mum, Frank goes on a murderous killing spree of prostitutes, nurses, models and… well, all variety of sexy dames.

Each time he kills, he takes a souvenir of his victim’s clothes and scalp, which he promptly brings home and puts on a plastic mannequin – the only type of woman Frank can really control. “Fancy girls with their fancy dresses and lipstick… I can’t stop them all, but I can stop you mother,” Frank says to a freshly dressed up a mannequin complete with a bloody scalp. “Now don’t you run away with another one of your men.”

Each murder only makes Frank’s hatred, and mother-delusions, grow. But then he meets Anna, and instead of killing her for taking his picture in the park, he puts on a nice guy act and tries to form a relationship. And they lived happily ever after! Oh wait, we kind of popped that fairy tale in the blog opening here.

Frank, Frank, Frank… you need to let your lady problems go, buddy. But does he? Or do his murderous ways finally get the best of him? Find out, in the 1980 slasher flick “Maniac.”

RDHP Ratings and Reviews

C-Rating: 2.5
Chris Dimick grunts:
“Jason. Freddy. Michael. Frank?
The man doing the cutting in this week’s slasher flick definitely doesn’t rank up with the big boys of this subgenre. But still, Frank was an interesting and horrific main slasher character that I have to admit I doubt I will ever forget. Most slashers' slashers are anonymous, mysterious, with motives that don’t reach much further than “insanity” or “revenge.” This is where Frank differs. The reason he goes on killing sprees is more deep, dark and distributing, mostly because it is grounded in a semblance of reality.

The problem though with Maniac is it leaves you no one to sympathize with, or root for. The movie wants you to sympathize with Frank, at least subtly, and understand that his tormented background with his mother makes him kill. But that emotional attachment is under-baked by the plot, and an audience never gets a chance at any emotion beyond revulsion.

That is not to say that Frank isn’t interesting to watch. It is like looking at a toilet bowl filled to the brim with dookie (which I once saw in a dirty Georgian rest stop). It is sickening to look at, but you are just so amazed at how it got that way.

Maniac doesn’t give you a reason to like Frank, but it also doesn’t give you a reason to cheer on his victims and hope they escape. Since this is a random stalk-and-kill type movie, the victims are never developed beyond a few random lines. Frank kills them, and while you are not happy about it, you don’t know the characters enough to care.

Even with all these faults, the movie still manages to mildly entertain. As an avid fan of the 1980s slasher genre, I was impressed by this films bold decision to go for realism. (If you want a great, terrifyingly real-seeming slasher movie, however, watch 1986’s Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.)

The only real redeeming part of this film lies in the way Frank is portrayed, played amazingly by Joe Spinell. You just got to love the skin-crawling way he talks to those mannequins. Or his unintentionally hilarious mouth-breathing “spaz-mtha” that occurs before each murder. Sure, you don’t like or feel sorry for Frank, but if anything he is interesting.

Slasher fans… give this one a go. But don’t rush. Non slasher fans... like anyone with a XX chromosome near Frank, it is probably best to stay away. Maniac provided a great foundation for future 80s slashers, but it is not a flick to measure the genre by.

Beware Jason, Freddy and Michael. Frank has feelings… and he loves to discuss them. Grab your Kleenexes, boys!

N-Rating: 0.1
Nick Rich grunts:
"Blech. For those of you who missed that let me repeat myself: Blech! Maniac has everything I hate about a movie: poor production value, slow pacing and sexual perversion. Let's just go down the list shall we?
  1. Poor production value: Now I like a good "bad" movie as much as the next guy, but when the story is so far from anything I'd ever want to put into my head, then the fun you can have with a poorly made movie goes right out the window. In Maniac you'll find it all - a story line so poor it makes you want to chew on your tongue from the absurdity of it, horror effects that fall flat (I mean, we're talking Tom Savini here!), and acting that is just above bad so one can't even enjoy how horrible it is. My tongue is still raw from the viewing!
  2. Slow pacing: How do you take a bad story and make it into a excruciating experience for the viewer? Make scenes (which you didn't even want to watch in the first place) ridiculously drawn out so you have to endure for 7 minutes what you don't even want to see for 7 seconds. While watching this film I silently cursed the man who invented slow motion and established "lingering" shots.
  3. Sexual perversion: This film is rife with it! Call me crazy, but I like my horror without sex or sexual perversion. You may argue it adds to the realism of a story, because people (it's rumored) have sex. That may well be true (I have people looking into this "rumor"), but that doesn't mean I want to see it/the filmmakers need to show it! As we've seen from past films there are plenty of way to display human sexuality without setting a film on the road to pornography - personally I think it lacks imagination on the part of the creative forces behind a film. "But it's a movie about a crazy guy who was abused as a kid - the perversion is how you show how jacked up he is!" Again, that may well be true (and I question the merit of making such a film in the first place), but that doesn't mean I want to see it! If a movie has a character that needs to get a cavity filled it's realistic to show the mundane details of the dental procedure, but I don't care/want to see it (I hate reality TV if you have yet to notice)! You can easily show the character go into the dentist holding this cheek and leave with a bandage around his head - you don't need to show him in the waiting room... then the prep period... then the procedure... then the cleanup! There are some things you just don't need kicking around in your head no matter how "realistic" or interesting the concept may be... No matter how noble the story teller may sound in their defense of the content (freedom of speech, staying true to the character, etc.), when it comes down to it they're trying to appeal to people's baser instincts to make a buck, and to me that's just cheap.
I suppose I should be grateful to Maniac - there were so many scenes in it I didn't want to see (so I didn't watch), I had plenty of time to balance my checkbook while I listened for them to be over! About now you may be wondering why I gave the film any points at all, well here are my two reasons: Joe Spinell's disturbing turn as Frank deserved a nod and the catchy 80's song found in the film "Goin' To a Showdown". Do I think either of these reasons merits a viewing of this film? Absolutely not.

In the past I may have enjoyed this "film" on another level, but growth (both personal and due to the time travel through horror history I've experienced via the RDHP) have honed my tolerance for films like this to nil - in fact I dare say this movie may have ruined me for slashers!
Maniac you say? Now that you've been warned, I think you'd be one to watch this film...

The Skinny: Do. Not. Watch. This. Film. (No, this is not reverse psychology). If you're tempted to hear the 80's-licious song, do yourself a favor and just listen to it on youtube (although I wouldn't recommend watching the video)!

Quote of the Viewing:
[Fresh off another murder, Frank attaches a woman’s scalp to a mannequin using a hammer and tacks.]
Chris: “I’ve heard of hair plugs, but this is ridiculous!”

Things We Learned from “Maniac”
- “Ultimate” sex costs $100 from a whore.
-Everyone automatically knows where anybody lives in New York City.
-Never use the phrase “there is more than one way to skin a cat” with a serial killer.
-You can scream while being choked.
-Cracker Jack is the perfect killin’ snack.
-Never turn down a friend's ride offer to walk home after reading about a series of murders. You will get sticky from blood.
-Strangers are welcome without explanation in any NYC home.
-A bubble bath is the perfect way to wind down after a long day of modeling.
-Admire your man boobs any chance you get:

RDHP Presents:
People with Mother Issues
Abused by his wicked slut mother as a boy, Maniac’s Frank Zito has some serious Mommy-issues. But he’s far from alone. Below, others who either love or hate their mothers just a litttttle too much.

Norman Bates
It’s normal to dress up like your mother and keep her rotting corpse in your basement, right?

Big Baby from Toy Story 3
Abandonment issues galore after being accidently left at a road side picnic… then replaced.

Sick, sick, and sick. Puke!

Mom is hardcore.

Anakin Skywalker
Here is a man who loves any opportunity to whine. But when his mother gets murdered… stay away from his light saber... and his tear ducks.

Jason Voorhees
The beheading of his mother awakened him from the dead in order to fulfill her revenge. Now that is son-devotion!

Pink Floyd
Well, should I build the wall or not, Mother?

Stewie Griffin
That Lois is just so hard to kill.

RDHP Presents:
Cops We Wish Were In This Film
(instead of these guys)
If any of these cops were in this film maybe maybe Frank's journey would have mercifully ended sooner...

White, black or purple he gets the job done!

Turner and Hooch
We'd like to see Frank try to staple a scalp on Hooch!

Jake and The Fat Man
Catching Maniacs and ham sandwiches since 1987.

Maddie Hayes and David Addison
Might there have been a bit too much romantic tension in the film if the crew from Moonlighting was in it? Sure, but the chance to see Bruce Willis sing would have been worth it.

Scooby-Doo and the Gang
Zoinks! The gang would make Scooby-Snacks out of Frank and best him in fashion sense!

No comments:

Post a Comment