As horror fans we’ve all bitched about remakes. Ever since PSYCHO was remade back in 1998 and then later THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE a few years later, we quickly realized the studios didn’t care about quality. They cared about having a movie open at number 1 at the box office. While the aforementioned films were watchable, there are countless more that are nothing more than drivel. Whether it’s watering down the story to get that PG-13 rating for increased box office receipts or turning the characters into trailer park trash, horror movie remakes often have big shoes to fill. For every MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D there’s about 10 PROM NIGHT remakes. So here’s a new series devoted to horror remakes that are worth your time and adoration… in my humble opinion of course.
For the uninitiated, the original MANIAC came out in 1980. It’s a dark and gritty story about a…well… maniac who stalks and kills women. His psychopathic lifestyle is disrupted when falls in love. He also has old mannequins in his small apartment that he talks to. I’ve seen this film many times but it’s been a few years. I do remember re-watching right before the remake came out so that I could compare the two.
Director William Lustig’s depressing, prostitute-drenched 1980s New York is traded for the bright yet dreadful,
prostitute artist-drenched 2010’s Los Angeles. The killer is also traded for an older, heavy-weight greasy Joe Spinell for… Elijah Wood. When I first read that Elijah Wood would be playing the maniac I took a huge gulp of my martini and waved by hands high in the aire and said “that’s what wrong with Hollywood! Elijah fucking Wood is playing a maniac!” Don’t get me wrong- I have nothing against Wood. As been proven for the last 30 years he’s a great actor, but to possess the physical embodiment of Joe Spinell? As the kids say, “bitch please!”
To my surprise when I finally saw the movie I had my guard down and my martini poured. I saw a film that surprise the entire fuck out of me. This was more than a simple horror remake. This was a work of art. It was an actual thing of beauty. This new remake doesn’t do much to change the story. It’s essentially the same as the original film, but the execution is something to which to bare witness. First, the film is told from the maniac’s point of view, which I thought was genius. I didn’t know how an entire film from the POV of one character would work in long form but it does. Like the opening scene of PEEPING TOM or HALLOWEEN, we now see the killer’s perspective which, ironically, creates more suspense as you’re watching him hunt his unsuspecting… then suspecting prey. I also have to acknowledge Elijah Wood’s game-changing performance. What he lacks in physical terror here makes up for in an unexpected mental intimidation. He’s the friend we all have who’s just a little bit quiet and nonetheless harmless but had a collection of dead squirrels in freezer. (Perhaps I need a new group of friends.) This remake turns the look and execution of the original on its head and is treated as horror film with subtlety, respect for it audience and unflinching terror. MANIAC is one of the rare remakes that I think is slightly better than the original. Did you like it? Let me know what you think in the comments.