Maniac (1980)

R   |    |  Drama, Horror, Thriller

Maniac (1980) Poster

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?

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  • Joe Spinell in Maniac (1980)
  • Joe Spinell in Maniac (1980)
  • Kelly Piper and Joe Spinell in Maniac (1980)
  • Joe Spinell in Maniac (1980)
  • Joe Spinell in Maniac (1980)
  • Maniac (1980)

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Reviews & Commentary

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16 October 2014 | chaos-rampant
Soliloquies of the knife
Horror is most purely about the violent impulse that surges from behind the eyes, the mist it creates; a story can be anything. Here it's the simplest story, man goes crazy in the big city, unable to contain the impulse, the whole seen through his mist.

There's a trauma that haunts him we find out, his cramped apartment is the mind then that fixates on memory and dwells among the fragments. The walls are lined with old photos of women, mannequins are scattered around; objects of a dead representation that he hoards unable to let go.

Quite a bit more of that story is explained to us later on, not much interesting; Freudian stuff about a mother, a vengeful child who never grew. But there's nothing we can't know by just seeing him pace up and down in his apartment, muttering to himself.

There's later a human connection to a photographer girl who snaps a picture of him one day in the park. The scenario is completely forced, a stranger and complete weirdo knocks on her door one day and they're best friends within minutes. It's something a weirdo much like the character would imagine (or write about).

But it's an opportunity to get closer to the real source, put our finger on the pulse; she a photographer who also freezes life into image but she's able to let go of it and share it in the open, while it just drives him to madness. We see her fuss with her models during a shoot much like he does with his gruesome mannequins; but her fiction has life, playfulness.

There's of course the violence, though it doesn't cut like perhaps it did then. It's still bloody and vivid. But what makes it powerful in its niche is the air of desperation around it, the whole film an internal monologue carving its garbled madness on the body of the night.

New York looks suitably barren, from the time before the makeover when people would walk down streets as bleak as in this film to see movies like it in dingy fleapit cinemas down 42nd street. The film is from that time when horror could still unsettle with the thought that somewhere in the same city, deranged souls very much like the character skulked around with a camera having horrible thoughts like this.

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