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Cannes Film Festival 2012: ‘Maniac’ Review

Sadly Cannes is now drawing to a close. It has been a wonderful festival filled with great movies and not-so-great movies.  The weather has been complimenting and I simply cannot wait to walk the Croisette again in 2013.

The festival’s final midnight film screening in the Hors Competition category is the remake of Maniac - a film that originally missed the Video Nasties ballot but has been considered a member for many years. This 2012 version, directed by Franck Khalfoun premièred a promising teaser trailer, so hopes were high.

Frank Zito (Elijah Wood) is a mentally disturbed young man who lives an isolated life with his over-protective mother. After she passes away, Frank is unable to cope and soon delves into a life rendered by murder. His killing spree sees him prey on young women, but when he meets artist Anna (Nora Arnezeder) with whom he wishes to open an exhibit with, he must decide whether he wants to find true love or get another blood-soaked fix.

Last night’s première of Maniac was fairly empty, yet there was still enough spectators to make for some dramatic walk-outs. In fact, this is the most walked-out film I’ve seen in the Grand Théâtre Lumière this year, and I can understand why.

Khalfoun’s remake manages to blend arthouse ideals and processes with utterly demonic, sickening violence to form a bloody yet beautiful medicine which is often hard to swallow.  It reminded me of Switchblade Romance in the sense that its raw, visceral images counteracts with its prying, searing intelligence.  And whilst Maniac may not be as ground-breaking as the comparative film, it’s still a fine slasher film and amongst the best horror re-envisions I’ve seen in a while.

Elijah Wood Maniac

Just like the original, the film is extremely misogynistic; dominated with testosterone-fuelled egos and power, and directed with heavy emphasis on the ‘male gaze.’  A technique famed in Film Noir, this version is pretty much a 90 minute celebration of women-hating on the surface, but when the audience dig their fingernails into this mucky, disturbing façade, psychological tones and structures begin to surface and Maniac grows in dimension, filmic artistry and intrigue.

There is simply no denying that this film is violent. Forget those stupid remakes of The Last House on the Left and Straw Dogs, Khalfoun’s picture is soaked in blood, gore and unbearable sequences of humiliation. Frank’s lust for murder, sexual abuse and destruction makes for appalling viewing and on more than one occasion, I squirmed in my seat. His trophy from each murder is to take the scalp of his victims in ever-growingly demented fashion. It’s not the most violent film I’ve seen (Irreversible is still winning that contest), but Maniac is formed on such over-powering atmosphere that it is often an uncomfortable watch. Seeing as the movie stars an A-list actor, those entering when theatrically released may get an almighty shock at the film’s cripplingly graphic, repugnant nature.

Elijah Wood gives an outstanding bug-eyed performance as Frank; he portrays such quaint and gentle features when the picture starts but his evolution into a monster makes for gripping viewing. This is probably his most daring and ambitious role for some time and he thrives in all the blood, sick and bodily fluids.

Maniac is exploitive, cruel and an unnerving piece of work that will hang in your mind long after you leave the cinema. It’s mad to think that Thomas Langmann has gone from producing The Artist to this,  but with the help of Alexandre Aja, the pair have helped helm a tough, gruesome and actually relevant horror remake. Maniac is an absolute beast that should be approached with great caution.

[Rating: 4]

About Chris Haydon

Chris' love affair with cinema started years ago when school teachers would moan to his parents that he spends too much time quoting and not enough working. He has a degree in Film Studies now so how do you like those apples past teachers and doubters? Despite being a romancer of all things Woody Allen, Michael Haneke and Christopher Nolan, Chris has favourite films in the majority of genres and is a complete sucker for bumbling indie types. He's also prone to gazing at beautiful actresses, particularly Mila Kunis, Anne Hathaway and Emma Stone for overly long periods of time. Just thought we'd warn you ladies...
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