Review: ‘Maniac’ remake ventures into dumb misogyny land, and the question is, why?

Elijah Wood in "Maniac."
(La Petite Reine/Daniel McFadden)

It’s not clear what exactly merited an updating of William Lustig’s 1980 “Maniac” — a cheapo urban grimeball about a serial killer — but like a rash’s unwelcome return, we got it anyway. New York may have been replaced by downtown L.A., but, stalker aficionados, breathe a sigh of relief: You can still film a helpless, terrified woman being chased through an empty subway.

And the central character of Frank is the same: Joe Spinell’s lumpen female-scalper with mommy issues is now elfin Elijah Wood’s job. It’s a slightly different job now, though, since in co-director Franck Khalfoun’s retelling — co-written with Lustig and Alexandre Aja — the camera acts as the eyes of murderous mannequin supplier Frank. That means Wood is there physically for reflection shots, and vocally for off-camera exclamations to his schizoid self (“Why can’t you leave any of them alone?!!”) that are so wince-inducing they’re the equivalent of performance gore.

Nearly every other human we get to know is a targeted woman. But the self-serious POV visual style has none of Brian DePalma’s cheeky, unnerving and self-implicating virtuosity — it just reinforces how sick and dumb this whole feel-bad exercise in misogyny and dimestore pathology is. To paraphrase Frank, why can’t they leave these kinds of movies alone?!!




Rating: No MPAA rating

Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes

Playing at: Downtown Independent in L.A. and Arena Cinema, Hollywood.