Telling the story of Frank Zito (Elijah Wood), who’s ruined psyche compels him to slaughter and scalp women to decorate his mannequin collection, Maniac is near perfect throughout.
Filmed almost entirely from Zito’s point of view, Maniac is very respectful of its origins whilst dramatically forging new ground. It’s exemplified by its format, using the slasher trope of sequences shot from the killer’s POV and taking them to their logical conclusion, shooting the entire film from that perspective.
This isn’t used as a gimmick; Maniac allows this to give us a new, startlingly effective insight into the mind of a serial killer. Never before has a psychopath been so identifiable and sympathetic. This generates huge amounts of innovative chills as the audience slowly begins to believe victims really do deserve death, an idea the slasher has never managed so successfully or committed to so fully.
Zito’s fantasies and hallucinations supplement this, giving us a rare glimpse of him in third person cinematography. Wood is brilliantly cast, giving his so far career best performance as someone who uses their own seemingly harmless visage to lure victims in.
His connection with the body parts he takes home and what it says about his relationship with women, sexuality and his mother is stunningly realised and complex. It will doubtless fuel conversations and debates for a long time. It’s this sickening, fully realised psychology that is Maniac‘s high point.
All this and the film’s brave gore and violence would have made Maniac commendable regardless. Bravely and skilfully making each attack sombre and personal, they’re absolutely nail biting.
These are just a few of the reasons you need to see Maniac in the cinema. The ultimate fusion of surreal arthouse trashthetique, Maniac is not just the horror, but the film of the year so far.