Barely offering enough sexual appeal and gore to stay a float in this ocean of an over-saturated and increasingly disappointing genre. "Maniac" has got the blood and guts, but never really gives a reason for them, which ultimately leads to it occasionally gulping lethal amounts of salt-water. In addition to the necessary savagery and unflinching gaze into the nauseating details of the human body, both mental and physical. "Maniac" displays, at times well, the helplessness of a psychopath succumbing to their sociopathic tendencies and obscure obsessions. Granted, it is relatively difficult to create and present a protagonist who doubles as an antagonist. However, the amount of slack "Maniac" is asking for is absurd and even its plethora of eye-pleasing victims isn't enough to completely vindicate the leaps and bounces the audience needs to execute in order to rationalize this picture essentially void of any skeletal structure.
Frank (Wood) is a mentally disturbed man who has taken over his family's mannequin restoration business. Frank's childhood experiences of seeing his mother work as a prostitute has left him unable to enter into meaningful relationships. Which results in his sexual impulses manifesting themselves as violent urges. Struggling to come to terms with the way his mother treated him and his memories of her constantly brushing her hair leads Frank to stalk, murder, and scalp women. As Frank attempts to create a meaningful relationship with a woman he met by chance, his sociopathic urges begin to grow stronger.
While "Maniac" is an upgrade from the 1980 original, that isn't saying much. Still, it is an admirable attempt. Nonetheless, compared to foreign horror masterpieces, the timeless classics, and a few modern geniuses. These hackneyed, over-the-top, uninspired entries just don't cut it anymore. Although "Maniac" is a definite step-up from the current, typical genre garbage full of cliches and idiotic premises, it isn't a large step. A lot of what makes it passable is the fact that it is a retread, it has a respectable basis. Still, it doesn't separate itself enough or add enough of the human element. We don't empathize with the victims which predictably results in indifference towards their murders. Essentially, aside from the evolution of visual effects, props, and make-up, "Maniac" has nothing new to contribute.
Given, if you're looking for a film to dance and flicker in the background of a Halloween party, you'll find none better than "Maniac." It has the gratuitous nudity and appalling gore you'd expect, and the best part is, you don't really need to pay attention to understand what is going on. Listen, I love gore, sex, and violence as much as any horror obsessor. It's just that I've seen truly terrifying, malicious, bloody films that have incredible stories and characters to match, which make for insanely better horror flicks. If you're into gore and everything that is considered disgusting by human nature, go watch "Martyrs," "Inside," or literally any foreign horror film. Simply put, they do it better. Look, if you've seen about every horror flick like I have and are simply looking for a fix. "Maniac" should have enough scalping, disembowelment, and nudity to quench your bloodthirsty nastiness.
As for the technical aspects of the film, yeah, it has some impressive attributes. Elijah Wood in the lead role is particularly effective. His withdrawn, subtle approach is unnerving and the way he wields a knife is enough to give you goosebumps. The cast is really limited and Wood is pretty much the only performer worth noting. Nora Arnezeder does a decent job supporting Elijah, but nothing too spectacular. Alexander Aja contributed to the screenplay. Aja is someone who really needs to step-up his game. After the satirical and bloody remake of "Piranha" and the disturbing "The Hills Have Eyes," Aja seems to have lost his way. Yet, talent doesn't disappear, we just have to wait a little longer for Aja to regain his touch. In summary, "Maniac" is subpar and the only purpose it serves to horror enthusiasts is to kill time until the next couple of anticipated terrors like "The Conjuring" or "Insidious: Chapter 2."
While it may lack the necessary human element and any frightful scares. Maniac should offer enough blood and guts to conjure up some value with horror enthusiasts.