M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Three of my decade-long Retro-Best in Horror recap Countdowns begins officially on October 1, 2012 and goes through September 30, 2013. I have posted compilation lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t!

How did I compile this list? I simply looked through films released between October 1st, 2012 and September 30, 2013 and worked and reworked the list until I had the magic number—31. Again, I never call myself any kind of expert in horror. I simply watch a lot of horror films and love writing about them. Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!

Released on June 21, 2013 and available on digital download, On Demand and BluRay/DVD here!

MANIAC (2012)

Directed by Franck Khalfoun
Written by Alexandre Aja, Grégory Levasseur, C.A. Rosenberg (screenplay), Joe Spinell (original screenplay)
Starring Elijah Wood, Liane Balaban, America Olivo, Nora Arnezeder, Morgane Slemp, Genevieve Alexandra, Sammi Rotibi, Megan Duffy, Jan Broberg, Steffinnie Phrommany

WARNING, IF YOU”VE SEEN THE ORIGINAL MANIAC, THERE MIGHT BE A SPOILER OR TWO IN THIS REVIEW, IF NOT, PROCEED.

Though I am not a fan of all of these remakes, when one is good, I feel the need to commend it, even if it means a bunch more shitty remakes will be made are down the pipeline. I’ve always treasured the original MANIAC as a perfect little shot of sleaze with its focus on greasy, sweaty, overweight Joe Spinell, who one would believe to be a homicidal maniac even if it didn’t show him collecting scalps for his mannequin collection. When I heard Elijah Wood was cast in the remake, at first I was angry that a Hollywood pretty boy was cast in hopes of attracting a demographic. Then I remembered that Wood is anything but your typical Hollywood actor. Just look at his unconventional role in the TV series Wilfred or more importantly his role as Kevin the emotionless maniac in SIN CITY and you can see why he was chosen for the role.

Wood plays Frank Zito, the owner and sole employee of a mannequin restoration shop and yes, that job is as creepy as it sounds. Frank spends most of his days reworking mannequins and talking with them. At night, Frank has creepier activities as he stalks and murders beautiful women, saving their scalps to be stapled to a special set of mannequins he has in the back room of his shop where he lives. When Frank meets Anna (Nora Arnezeder), a photographer with an interest in using Frank’s mannequins, he tries hard to keep his psychotic tendencies at bay.

Compared to the original, which isn’t really fair, but inevitable, this new MANIAC keeps a lot of the details the same and adds quite a few which really add to the story rather than detract from it. The main deviation is the fact that 90% of this film is shot through Wood’s POV with Frank only appearing in reflection and during some of the key kills where Frank seemingly leaves is body while doing the evil deeds. This makes for a pretty unnerving and otherworldly experience that some might feel uncomfortable with. We literally see the world through the eyes of the killer; stalking victims, attempting to connect with them, and eventually killing them. As if they were our own eyes, we see Frank stalk, scalp, and kill these people, an effect that has been done in plenty of films before, but never at this level of intimacy or intensity.

The other thing that impressed me was Wood’s convincing performance. As I said above, I knew he could play a psycho, but looking at his big Frodo eyes, one can’t help but be brought back to the Shire, making these evil deeds all the more shocking to see him commit. It’s the baggage the actor carries with him that that adds, not detracts to this performance and makes it all the more effective.

One thing that most fans of the original MANIAC were concerned about was the fact that there would be no way a modern filmmaker would go down the gory avenues the original did. Well, turns out director Franck Khalfoun didn’t get that memo as this is one of the goriest major film releases I’ve seen in years as scalps are sliced off, stabbings are doled out in the dozens, and the final scene, which I won’t reveal here, is as gory as the original albeit slightly different. Though a lot of the gore is digital, most of it is top notch and seamless. I’d be curious what Tom Savini has to say about this because this serves as an excellent homage to his work on the original slasher opus (minus the shotgun scene, which was a bit over the top in the original and I’m glad they left it out here).

Those leery of remakes can rejoice that this is definitely a good one. There’s a beat in the final scenes that moves a bit quickly for my tastes, but it is necessary in order to keep the film at its established pace. I guess it says something about me that I was both disgusted and intrigued in slipping into the shoes of Wood’s Frank Zito. Wood is amazing here and pulls no punches. His Frank Zito is as much his own as Joe Spinell’s was in the first MANIAC. Though it may be a tough pill to swallow for the queasy among you, MANIAC is an excellent film that takes the original seriously and respectfully.

Warning: This trailer has boobs! NSFW!




THE 2012-2013 COUNTDOWN!


#1 – MANIAC
#2 – EXCISION
#3 – THE CONSPIRACY
#4 – ANTIVIRAL
#5 – THE BATTERY
#6 – STOKER
#7 – AMERICAN MARY
#8 – EVIL DEAD 2013
#9 – RESOLUTION
#10 – SLEEP TIGHT
#11 – WE ARE WHAT WE ARE
#12 – THE CONJURING
#13 – SIGHTSEERS
#14 – WITHER
#15 – KISS OF THE DAMNED
#16 – JUG FACE
#17 – NO ONE LIVES
#18 – YOU’RE NEXT
#19 – HOME SWEET HOME
#20 – THE TAINT
#21 – THE PURGE
#22 – RITUAL/MODUS ANOMALI
#23 – V/H/S/2
#24 – MON AMI
#25 – EUROPA REPORT
#26 – BLIND ALLEY
#27 – MIDNIGHT SON
#28 – DEVIL’S PASS
#29 – COME OUT AND PLAY
#30 – THE LAST WILL & TESTAMENT OF ROSALIND LEIGH
#31 – I DIDN’T COME HERE TO DIE


M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.

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