The image of Frodo Baggins slicing off the scalp of a defenceless, bound-up female is not one you see every day, nor would you wish to. I love horror movies, but this one is not really a horror film. It is just a vile and pointless exercise in viciousness, based upon a 1980s B-movie.
Of course, it isn’t Frodo doing the killings, it’s a young man called Frank (played by Elijah Wood). He collects manikins and does weird things to them. He terrorises, tortures then brutally murders women. And we get to watch a lot of this in close-up. The grueling violence is set to an electronic score reminiscent of movies by Dario Argento.
One gets the feeling filmmakers Frank Khalfoun and Alexandra Aja think they are doing something radical here. They shoot most of the film from the central character’s disturbing point of view. It’s an interesting device, but not one that remains interesting throughout the 100 minute running time.
The most effective scene is its final moment which feels like a reference to Patrick Suskin’s novel Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. It’s the closest the movie gets to intelligence, but it’s too little too late.
I try not to be sensationalist when reviewing controversial movies, but with films like this – films that revel in an endless parade of salacious gore without much else to offer – it is hard not to get upset. This is horrible. Really horrible. I’m not going to argue it should be banned. I’m not going to say it will make people go out and murder others. But in terms of quality, it reaches the bottom of the barrel. In terms of story, it doesn’t really have one. And in terms of horror, it all just ends up feeling hatefully misogynist. Violence against defenceless, screaming women is becoming a trend in entertainment. This is an exercise in how not to portray it on screen.
Maniac (2013), directed by Frank Khalfoun, is released on Blu-ray disc and DVD in the UK on 1 July by Metrodome, Certificate 18.