Director: Franck Khalfoun
Cast: Elijah Wood, Nora Arnezeder, Genevieve Alexandra, Brian Ames, Liane Balaban
Length: 89 min
Label: MPI Home Video
Release Date: Oct 15th, 2013
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
English: LPCM 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
- Audio Commentary with Elijah Wood, director Franck Khalfoun, and executive producer Alix Taylor
- Making Of – A 66 min documentary with behind-the-scenes footage, cast/crew interviews, etc.
- Poster Gallery
- Deleted Scenes
Remakes, more often than not, carry a bad stigma. A thankless endeavor, where whatever you do is instantly scrutinized and put under a devoted fan’s microscope. You can choose to stick close to the material; sometimes shot for shot, often with disastrous results (Van Sant’s Psycho) or you can branch out and try something new. In the case of Franck Khalfoun’s Maniac, he chooses the latter and with better results.
Maniac follows Frank (Elijah Wood), the owner of his family’s antique mannequin restoration shop, who also happens to be a deranged serial killer. The film wastes no time in showing Frank’s sick tendencies, as we are privy to him stalking and scalping a young woman. What makes the film unique, is that it is shot mostly from Frank’s POV. Rather than being a “fly on the wall,” this forces the audience to “participate” and feel complicit in Frank’s actions throughout the film. It adds a whole other level of terror and tension, that would have been lost if the audience were just a passive observer.While we do get mirror shots and the occasional “out of body” experience, the film is mostly carried by Elijah Wood’s voice and the supporting cast. Wood does a good job conveying the anguish of Frank’s character through his voice, enabling the audience to sympathize with his plight. Nora Arnezeder holds her own as Sarah, who typically would be a damsel in distress. She proves that she can handle herself, when “it” hits the fan with Frank.
The old saying, “don’t sit too close to the TV” comes to mind when thinking of this MPEG-4 AVC video transfer. The film was shot on the RED Epic, much of it in low-light conditions, and while the image quality fairs well, it isn’t without small hindrances. Light noise is present in almost all the frames and becomes increasingly noticeable the closer you sit to the television. While it’s not too distracting, those that are more used to near pristine imagery be forewarned. There has been criticism in some quarters of fluctuating image softness, but the many instances of soft-focus photography is a deliberate artistic choice in this film and should not be criticized on technical grounds. Technically, the overall clarity, sharpness and contrast are very good, with no noticeable crush in shadows. Colors are vivid and well saturated, especially when they are juxtaposed against a dark and dingy background.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track does the film’s elaborate sound design full justice. The film’s soundtrack, by French composer, (simply known as) Rob is a standout. The 80’s electronica score instantly evokes Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, John Carpenter and Goblin. Most of Elijah Wood’s dialogue was ADR (done in post-production) and gives us a disturbing and at times dislocated glimpse at being inside Frank’s mind, to compliment the first person visual design. There’s a scene where Frank and Sarah are enjoying a lunch together, Frank’s dialogue sounds tin-like, distant and echoed. It was jarring and took away from the experience.
The extras are a bit lacking. There’s a lengthy Making Of, clocking in at a little over an hour that has great behind the scenes, cast/crew interviews and insight into how the first-person view was perfected. There’s an Audio Commentary with director Franck Khalfoun, Elijah Wood and executive producer Alix Taylor. There are Deleted Scenes, a Poster Gallery, and a Trailer.
Rather than a by-the-book remake, Franck Khalfoun’s Maniac treads new ground. Seeing everything from Frank’s POV invites the audience to empathize with the character further. The soundtrack is great and calls to mind 80’s horror synth classics, the likes of John Carpenter and so on. While the video quality may not be as outstanding as it could be at times (though it’s perfectly acceptable) and the extras are a bit thin, it isn’t enough to detract from one’s viewing pleasure. Franck Khalfoun’s Maniac is definitely worth checking out.