Maniac: Movie Review

Maniac Movie Review
by Chris Wright,

Psychological horrors can be gritty, hard to watch, bloody, atmospheric and one of the best is "Maniac". This was a very controversial film at the time since it is horrifically violent for its time despite various other movies coming before it. From the even violent poster art, which I am sure just had a fantastic time with the likes of the MPAA to the atmosphere, this movie is just plain brilliant. Media Home Entertainment released this movie in 1980 (one of the first ones from Charles Band's VHS company) and has been released several times on DVD and it has even received a Blu-Ray release recently as well.

The story is very simple: A deranged man is very upset that his mother has passed and wants to recreate her through his mannequins and kills women to do so. Simple and probably bad right? Far from it. Joe Spinell (who also co-wrote this) is the main character. We see him whining and crying in his room after he slaughtered a young couple on a beach. He plays this role very well that you literally feel sorry for him at times.

Joe Spinell plays his part perfectly mumbling to himself about his life and how he feels. He talks to his mannequins quite a bit. You feel for him yet you feel disgusted by him at the same time. That, to me, is very hard to pull off in acting but Joe perfected it in this movie. He looks like your ordinary guy you'd see living in a big city yet inside his head is full of rage ready to snap at any moment.

One of the first scenes is Frank Zito (Joe Spinell) going to a motel in the streets of New York with a prostitute he found. Of course we know where this leads, it leads right up to the bedroom! It is looking fine until Frank snaps and begins to strangle the women. This is not one of those quick chokes and we're done either, but this is one of those makes us sit through it in agony types. All of this leads me to talk about the gore, created by none other than Tom Savini (who has done Day of the Dead, Friday the 13th, The Prowler). The gore is pretty near realistic with Frank scalping the hair from the prostitute and it being shown for us. We see throats being slit, we heads blown off through glass, we even see heads literally being snatched off (despite the head looking a tad fake). Tom Savini did us pretty proud in this movie with the realism in the gore.

Frank Zito soon becomes obsessed with a fashion photographer by the name of Anna D'Antoni (played by Caroline Munro). Frank becomes a bit infatuated by her and watching her obsessively photo-shoot various people in her studio. He slowly befriends her trying to form a trust between her and himself. Of course Frank has not backpedaled a bit from his obsessive ways. One scene he stalks one of the girls all the way down to the underground train station. The way the film does this is rather creepy. It eventually ends in her thinking the coast is clear only for him to come up behind her in the bathroom and murdering her on the spot.

The story eventually leads him and Anna in the graveyard (which is highly atmospheric at this point) of Frank mourning over his mother's passing. Frank, at that point, snaps and tries to attack Anna and kill her. Frank's murderous attempt falls short as she wounds him and makes it to safety. Frank comes back to cry over his mother's grave again but in his head her dead corpse comes out of the grave and tries to strangle him!

The conclusion is Frank making his way back to his apartment wounded and crying. He lays in bed while staring at his mannequins and they begin to stare at him. All of his mannequins start to come to life and soon attack him! They begin to tear him to shreds ... literally. They rip off his head and tear open his body in this violent scene (by Vaughn at dresshead fashion). The music adds to its creepiness. This horrific sequence turns out to be in his head as well when the police show up and assume he is dead on his bed. When they leave, he opens his eyes very wide.

All in all I give this movie a 5 out of 5 stars. It earned every bit of it. From a great movie from such a simple storyline, great acting from Joe Spinell, to the horrific violence sequences. It's very sad that Joe passed away 6 weeks in to making a sequel for this movie but the footage is available for those who wish to see an unfinished product. I highly recommend. Check it out very soon, you won't be disappointed. It has a 6.3/10 on IMDB.

Maniac (1980)
Directed By: William Lustig
Written By: Joe Spinell and C.A. Rosenberg

Starring: Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro, Abigail Clayton, Kelly Piper, Rita Montone

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