A psychotic man, troubled by his childhood abuse, loose in New York City, kills young women and takes their scalps as his trophies. Will he find the perfect woman in a photographer, and end his killing spree?
An unknown killer, clad in World War II U.S. Army fatigues, stalks a small New Jersey town bent on reliving a 35 year-old double murder by focusing on a group of college kids holding an annual Spring Dance.
A decades-old folk tale surrounding a deranged murderer killing those who celebrate Valentine's Day turns out to be true to legend when a group defies the killer's order and people start turning up dead.
Frank Zito misses his mother, who was killed in a car accident years before. She was abusive to him, and made money selling her body, but Frank still misses her. He tries to keep her from leaving him, and reform her evil ways, by killing young women and putting their scalps on mannequins which he displays around his apartment. Photographer Anna D'Antoni takes a picture of him in the park, and he pursues and befriends her. Is she the one he has been looking for or just another mother wannabe?Written by
Ed Sutton <email@example.com>
Joe Spinell was working in between the filming of Maniac (1980) with other movie projects, one of them being Nighthawks (1981) which began filming before production on Maniac ended, in which Spinell cut his hair short and shaved off his mustache to play a clean-cut, high-ranking New York police official for Nighthawks. In a few scenes (most of them being where Frank Zito is driving his car), Spinell is wearing a fake mustache with a long-haired wig under his cap. See more »
The camera's shadow can be seen several times on some of the mannequins in the final scene. See more »
Maniac takes a path that few films dare, by allowing us to sympathize with the killer, and presenting him as the protagonist of the film. Indeed, for the first half hour, the film creates a shockingly claustrophobic scenario, in which Frank is the only real character in the film, and the others are all introduced to serve merely as his victims. This structure makes for some powerful viewing, because Frank's worldview is so claustrophobic and stifling that we almost literally feel his isolation weighing down upon us.
The film loses its power when it creates a semi-traditonal love interest for Frank. Inevitably, this opens up the film, by allowing us to assume a perspective other than Frank's at various times throughout the remainder of the film. Though this does come as a sort of emotional relief for the viewer, it also diminishes most of the tension that the stellar first half hour so completely creates.
Were it not for this cop-out, Maniac would be one of those rare films that, while being nearly unwatchably upsetting, is also a brilliantly moving film. Indeed, many of the camera angles used, as well as Spinell's terrific performance lend this film more credibility than it deserves.
In summary, the film starts out as emotionally raw and brutal as "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer", or "Peeping Tom", but about half way through the film it relents and becomes more generic slasher fare. All serious analysis aside, however, Savii's work on this film has to be seen to be believed. Gorehounds can't afford to miss it.
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