7) Maniac (2013)
If you remember William Lustig’s brutally psychotic film Maniac, you probably remember Tom Savini’s head turning into a human piñata after being blasted by a shotgun. It’s splattery, gory, and absolutely insane – but doesn’t hold a candle to Franck Khalfoun’s brutally unforgiving masterpiece. This year’s Maniac remake (re-imagining) not only utilized gut-wrenching violence and stomach-churning gore, but the psychological aspect taints our minds and actually does something despicably evil – it turns us into the killer.
First of all, kudos to Elijah Wood for delivering one of his best performances to date as lead character Frank, an emotionally deranged serial killer who targets young women and removes their scalps, only to use the fleshy mess as headpieces for his mannequin collection. I know, you’re probably a little queasy already, because Khalfoun doesn’t hold a damn thing back visually, as we watch Elijah murder woman after woman, hearing the squishy slicing noise as he removes their precious locks. It gets worse though, oh so worse.
Khalfoun’s Maniac utilizes a first-person POV technique, as we watch the actions play out as Elijah’s character Frank. We’re seeing through his eyes. We’re hearing his thoughts. We’re uncomfortably listening to his excited panting as he stalks women from afar. In essence, we become the killer, and it feels dementedly disgusting. This effect is most prominent when actress Megan Duffy is suffocated by Frank, as we watch her body go limp and lifeless in Frank’s outstretched hands – and by that I mean our hands. It’s so gritty and real, I almost felt like I was watching a snuff film, and I couldn’t shake this feeling of disgust afterwards, like I’d played a part in the act.
The genius of Maniac’s insanity is not in violence alone, but in the beautifully murderous delivery that creeps into our psyche and digs deep without us even knowing. It’s not just a blood-soaker like Lustig’s original, not in a longshot. Khalfoun’s Maniac is a piece of sadistic horror that brings you as close as humanly possible to being a killer yourself, whether you like it or not (I’m hoping you don’t?). Watch at your own risk, because you never know what hidden feelings might be unearthed…