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Effective shocker. But is it entertainment?
on 7 November 2005
Bill Lustig coaxed a lifetime-great performance from Joe Spinell in the compelling, but thoroughly unpleasant gore-fest that is Maniac.
Whilst the blood 'n guts in a Romero or Fulcio horror is so OTT as to provide comedy value as well as shocks, the gore in Maniac feels so real (courtesy of Tom Savini in expert form) as to make the viewer feel uncomfortably like a guilty voyeur at the scene of something exceedingly nasty.
As an insight into a profoundly troubled mind and the shocking consequences of horrific childhood abuse (more hinted at than explained), Maniac also works pretty well. It cleverly treds the fine line between the viewer understanding what has made Frank Zito (Spinell) into the monster he became, whilst never sympathising with the appalling acts he commits.
Somewhat surprisingly for a low-budget movie in the gore-fest/video nasty category, Maniac is rather well acted. Spinell himself is scarily believable. The actress (sorry not sure of her name) in the extended toilet scene gives one of the most convincing depictions of utter terror ever seen. Whilst it is perhaps a little far fetched that anyone could fall for the dubious charms of Frank Zito, Caroline Munro plays a blinder as the beautiful, talented (if somewhat naive) photographer.
So, in my humble opinion, it is the sheer realism and honesty of Maniac that makes it work. On the occasions when it descends into more a supernatural horror style (including one scene in the cemetary ripped unashamedly from Carrie, and the final scene with the mannequins) its potency becomes diluted.
Enough quibling though. Fans of the genre will surely acknowledge Maniac as a very effective and truly disturbing horror movie.
The DVD is reasonably well-equipped. The remastered picture quality and sound are as good as you'd expect, the documentary about Spinell is fascinating and poignant, the director's commentary is insightful and amusing, and the critics' outraged reviews are hilarious.
Be warned though; you will probably feel like you need a bath after watching Maniac!