It’s 3.30 in the morning and I can’t sleep.
I’ve just come home from seeing the uncut and (as yet) unrated remake of Maniac, starring Elijah Wood as Frank, the eponymous psycho. We, tonight’s members of the late-night Fright Fest audience, will likely be the only UK audience to see this film under these circumstances.
The bbfc will award Maniac with a certificate it deems appropriate, and release a report on its findings (including a psychologist’s analysis, which I would love to read). It’s almost certainly going to request some heavy editing, if it allows release in the UK at all.
Maniac is the one film that will haunt me long after Fright Fest is over. It was one of the most uncomfortable viewing experiences I have ever had, and I’ll try to outline why as best I can, here.
1) The first-person POV
Maniac is shot almost exclusively in POV, putting the audience in Frank’s shoes. While Frank’s psychology is set up very well, making us all too aware of the motivation behind his actions, we become Frank for two hours; we stalk the women, attack them, breathe over them, observe them and our explicit handiwork up close, and murder them. It’s a really interesting method of filmmaking and you spend much of the film (when not feeling like you need a chemical shower) wondering “how did they do that? That’s seamless!” Which brings me to…
2) It’s a god damn work of art.
It is beautiful. It is a stunning, clean, extraordinarily well executed, meticulously thought out film. It’s impossible to look away, even when sweet, big blue-eyed Elijah Wood is repeatedly stabbing a woman in the cold concrete floor of a car lot. The performances, particularly Wood’s (who is Kevin times Buffalo Bill), are bold and balls-out brave. Even the soundtrack is fucking brilliant, with a knowing wink to horror/thriller fans.
And because it’s such a well done film, there’s a little niggling worry that someone out there will feel it’s glorifying the subject matter and that…
3) Someone, somewhere is getting their jollies off to this.
If you can think of it, there’s porn of it. This kind of stuff, which, were it not for the high technical skill involved, is dangerously close to torture porn territory. It’s a very disturbing viewing experience once you realise (very early on) that this is somebody’s wank bank material, which makes it a dangerous film.
4) It’s a beautifully put together, two-hour long presentation of my Worst. Fears.
We open with the sound of Frank breathing while he watches two women exit a nightclub in a grotty part of LA. They’re wearing skin-tight dresses, they hurr be did all fine and shit; they look stunning. One gets into a cab, and the other waits to hail another. While waiting, a man she doesn’t know approaches and pinches her hip. “Sorry, I just wanted to try and scare you a little bit.” He pinches her again, she tells him not to touch her, and when he doesn’t leave her alone, she flicks her cigarette at him and walks away. “That’s not very nice,” the man and his friends call after her. She’s angry, and they find it funny. All this happens while Frank watches from a distance in his car, which he then proceeds to follow her in. She clocks him, and runs, tripping and falling on a dodgy heel (HORROR TROPE KLAXON). She ends up being his first victim.
Just take the briefest of glances at Twitter and you’ll see that street harassment is a hot bed issue at the moment. Heck, just look at mine or my housemate’s Twitter feeds. In the past week there have been three instances when one of us has come home feeling gross and unsafe, and that’s a tame week.
When a man you don’t know leers, makes a sexually charged comment, touches you without your permission, the first thought in some women’s heads is “this man is going to hurt/attack/rape/mug/kill me.”
Watching that film, dealing with the daily microcosmic shit on the street for which Maniac is the macrocosm, strikes a nerve. Maniac is the scenario that runs through my head every time two guys walk towards me and sneer, “nice tits.” Plus, it’s relentless. There was a point in the third act where I actually said out loud, “Give me a fucking break.”
My friend Duncan and I discussed it on the way home (the night bus, from which I watched all manner of scantily clad women fight off unwanted attention, and I felt scared for them). He reassured me that paranoid schizophrenics who go on murderous rampages are rare, and are often caught quickly. What is presented in Maniac is a hyper-real situation. It is simply too easy for Frank to carry out these murders; no one’s ever around to catch him and not even leaving all manner of physical evidence in one victim’s apartment is enough to track him down. But still… *shudder*
I’m currently in the final days of completing a horror screenplay for my MA, so for the past four months I have immersed myself in the genre. I know that the point of horror is to make you feel uncomfortable. That, aside from impressing fellow filmmakers with mad technical skillz, is The Point.
Without being facetious, I would be really interested to know what the point of the Maniac remake was. It did all of the above; I felt excruciatingly uncomfortable, I jumped, I wept, and I was totes impressed with the way it was made, but a panel Q&A with director, writers and actors would be really interesting. I want to know why they made it.
There’s a very short on set interview with Elijah Wood HERE that’s a good start.
I didn’t applaud during the excellent special effects sequences, nor did I applaud when the lights came up, as I have done for every other film. I was numb.
While Maniac may divide and cause debate, it is without question a game-changer and will be considered A Very Important Film. Whether or not it is a potentially dangerous film is left to the bbfc to decide.>