Frank works with restoring old mannequins, but they are also part of his sick obsession of scalping women and putting it on the mannequins. One day he sees a woman photographing his mannequins from outside of his store and he goes out to talk to her. A friendship is blooming as he helps her with her art exhibit, but Frank's twisted mind is just waiting to come out again.
We haven't reviewed a lot of remakes, mostly because they usually don't come our way for reviewing (and the ones we don't get for reviewing but watch anyway we usually don't care to review). People were against the idea of a remake of "Maniac", as you would expect. There was no way it could recreate the sleaziness of the original and people knew it. Once people realized that the the filmmakers behind the remake knew this too and they decided to go for something completely different but still very sleazy, people were slowly getting curious. Whether you agree or not, with both "Evil Dead" and "Maniac" getting quite good response it seems to have been a short but successful period in remaking classics.
Like the original, the remake is about Frank, a serial killer who meets a beautiful photographer, Anna. Frank owns a mannequin shop where he restores old mannequins, and his killing fetish is to scalp women and put on his mannequins. When he meets Anna and helps her work on her art exhibition, he tries hard to stay away from his old, psychotic ways. When he finds out that Anna has a boyfriend, there's not much left to hold him back.
Where the original was drenched in sleazy atmosphere just by being set in New York and having Joe Spinell in the lead, the remake goes for a more slick style with Los Angeles as the backdrop, and many tricks up its sleeves to enhance the atmosphere. The movie is told through POV shots, which is a very interesting approach. Unfortunately they didn't seem to be strict enough with what they could do, and often seem to repeat themselves to get through. There are several scenes that simply aren't believable POV shots, where the camera is obviously not where his eyes are supposed to be. They also insist on having Frank in front of mirrors a few too many times just to somehow show-off and also so they can show Elijah Wood. But as I said, many POV shots come off as unrealistic, whereas a movie like "Enter the Void" executed it to perfection. Maybe if this was made 10 years ago, the technical execution of it wouldn't have been as important, but with an entire movie built on it and we're being quite advanced now, you'd expect a better execution. Still, the idea of it is intriguing, and they execute it well enough to tell the story.
Elijah Wood does a good job in the role. I've never had a problem with him even though I'm not exactly a fan, and here he manages to give a different kind of sleazy than Joe Spinell did. Which one you prefer is totally up to you, but I think this Frank was appropriate for this "Maniac", and Joe Spinell's was appropriate for the 1980's "Maniac". Elijah Wood makes for a good depressed, lonely and obsessive young man even though we're mostly seeing from Frank's eyes rather than having him on the screen.
The gore is really good in the remake, which you would expect and, I suppose, demand for a "Maniac" remake. It's not extremely gory, but the scenes are effective. They didn't manage to get any iconic kills quite like the original did, but I'm sure you will enjoy a mannequin hand in the stomach or the ending. It's just harder to make memorable gore now than it was 30-or-so years ago, since even television has fantastic gore sequences now. Some nudity to top it off and you're good to go!
This is a good remake. It's not a remarkable movie, but as a remake I think it's succeeded. It's not a movie that I could get emotionally invested in, and while Elijah Wood played his character well, I didn't feel split on hating AND feeling sorry for him as I did with Joe Spinell's Frank. This is a stylish upgrade that adapted the source material well, but sometimes the stylish approach (like the POV) isn't executed quite as perfect as needed for such a selling point. Franck Khalfoun has definitely improved as a director from his shitty "P2" though, and the technical issues I had with it didn't ruin the overall flow. Horror fans should definitely give it a shot to get their own opinion on it, and to see an interesting way of adapting old material.