Overwrought is too weak a word to describe this bloody and unhinged remake of William Lustig’s 1980 cult classic. Directed by Franck Khalfoun (P2) and cowritten and coproduced by Alexandre Aja, the movie is shot almost entirely in the first person; like 1947’s The Lady in the Lake, the hero is only glimpsed in mirrors. We also hear his trembling mutterings or anxious dialogue. Elijah Wood stars as that title character, one very different from the one he plays on Willard: a schizo killer and scalper of women who freaks out, trashes rooms, screams, kills, hallucinates, has flashbacks, and suffers blinding migraines.
He slices off the tops of his victims’ heads so he can gift their hair to the antique mannequins he restores and positions around his room and bed. He’s a literal objectifier of women: he destroys their humanity, robs them of their personhood, and recreates them as things. (So his hallucinated comeuppance, being torn apart like a doll, is fitting.) This has something to do with his mother, a sex worker whose work he often watched. His mother was a whore! They’re all whores! Except maybe the photographer who stops by his shop and becomes his friend. Wood looks too boyish and frail to me to believe as a serial killer. But his wounded eyes help make this gonzo gorefest almost seem like a tragic love story.
Maniac screens on Saturday night and again Halloween evening as part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Scary Movies series. More info here.
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