Movie Reviews 94 – Maniac (1980)

maniacI can’t figure out the hype touting this as a slasher classic. William Lustig’s movie about a psychotic man obsessed with his dead mom who goes around killing women seems to me to be as one dimensional a movie as you can get. I kept on waiting for it to be somehow different or to unique in some way. But truth be told, it was just a guy killing women. Plain, simple, open and shut case.

The late Joe Spinell (better known as the loan shark in the Rocky movies) who created the story and was also one of the script writers plays the killer who scalps his victims and places the scalps on the numerous mannequins that he keeps in his bare basement apartment. This is supposed to be some psychological masterpiece cinema, but even the luscious Caroline Munro as his last prized target cannot elevate this rather boring take on slashers. Sure there are plenty of Oedipus complex issues with the killer and some pretty dark and heavy scenes, but in the end it’s just a killer on the loose. Most of the mother issues are related simply with the killer blathering on and on to his in his delusional state.

The film does have a few redeeming qualities. For one thing the movie starts right into the action in the first minute. No slow and grand buildup. Another fine moment was seeing FX guru Tom Savini exploding a head. His own in fact. Savini is no thespian but I always enjoy seeing him for a few moments in a movie whether his head explodes or not.

This film was very controversial on its release but I believe that that was largely due to a number of aspects that were in the public’s eye at the time, one being the then recent Son of Sam serial killings going on and the sleazy putrid state of New York city at the time. In fact, seeing that New York of old was one of the things I enjoyed.

I just don’t see what all the fuss is about viewing the film today. I suspect those praising it may be doing so more out of a sense of nostalgia than pure merits of the film.


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