Monday, October 28, 2013

VERSUS: Maniac

It's the return of VERSUS!  

I did a MANIAC double feature Saturday and Sunday and while I may have been disturbed by the content, I wasn't disappointed in either film.  Both Maniac features were great, genre fair.

I had seen most of the original Maniac ages ago, so I started with the remake so I wouldn't be directly comparing it to the original while watching. I was happy that I took this route - it seemed like the way to go for sure.

The plot of both films is simple. An abused child grows up to be a very mentally disturbed man who slays women to deal with the damage incurred from his toxic mother as a boy . Short, not so sweet and to the point. A point usually found at the tip of a knife blade.

Frank Khalfoun (High Tension) did a marvelous job with the retelling of this little terror tale in the 2012 version. Alexandre Aja and Grégory Levasseur also did a great job updating Joe Spinell's original script. This was key to the whole thing coming together. And the main gimmick of having the film be in first person unless we're seeing a reflection is an amazing feat. It never came off as forced or contrived, which I was sure I was going to be finger wagging about at some point. The execution was spot on. And the one time we drift away from the first person shot really makes sense from the story perspective.

Elijah Wood is no mere Hobbit in this, either. He's really...crazy looking. In that creepy, "tears the wings off of flies" way, too. He's a menacing force that knocks it out of the park. It's a role that many would most likely run from, honestly. Who wants to be "that guy"- the vicious, serials killer of women.

And, that's something that almost had me switching the film off. I knew what the content was and I was familiar with the story, but the violence and visuals associated with the acts are hard to take at times. I'm getting older, I think, and I'm losing my desire to see things like this. I'm leaning more towards unreal ghosty flicks and creatures instead of these real world monstrous humans. However, there was something to the film that transcended the violence for me and I was able to hang in there. I guess it was the strong storyline and fantastic acting. Still, this was not one for the weak of heart. There is some really brutal stuff in here. I'm just not feeling the violence these know...I still watch these films. I'll just file that under habit. Or, a bi-polar nature. Not sure. :)

Now the original 1980 version is no cake walk either. It's angry and grungy and gritty with that same violence factor, but it's watchable for other reasons. Joe Spinell's performance as Frank Zito is pitch perfect. While Wood is somewhat charming and "cute", Spinell is just large and chubby and sweaty. He's the unwashed, greasy haired guy you see waiting for a slice on the street or sitting in the subway across from you. The guy you just don't want to be around.

The film has the grindhouse grit of the time and it's a fantastic time capsule for the era. William Lustig's direction is of the era as well and it's a lot of fun to watch. This has to be his top rated film. And Tom

Savini's effects work was top of the line at this point as well. Some of the effects work in Maniac is amazing. (The shotgun scene - whew)

Both films hold their own for various reasons and both should be watched and enjoyed ( much as one can enjoy them...:::grin:::) on their own merits. While the films are the same overall as far as the story goes, they are also very different and I think this makes a strong case for remakes of classic genre films. There were updates made and very interesting takes and changes on the original film. Nothing super major, but the small changes were enjoyable and interesting. The 30 years between the films really helps here as well. When you have 30 or more years between films, there is a lot that can be updated and altered in a very positive way. Again, we are not seeing a remake made of a film made in the same year ::::cough:::  REC  :::cough::::   We have space to play with a major update with a new tone.

I'd still love to see some of my old favorites done in this same, big budget update way. NIGHT OF THE DEMON, THE NIGHT WALKER, and THEM! redone like THE THING? Sign me up! But, it would have to be done well and with some seriousness. That might make the likes of THEM! difficult because you need 50s black and white charm to sell giant ants attacking people. 

This is no NIGHT OF THE DEMONS situation here where the original is clearly the way to go IMHO. Both Maniac versions are well worth checking out. So, I'm calling this a tie.

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