I won’t start off with the usual lamenting about the remake plague, because we pretty much all feel the same about them being unnecessary at best and crapass for the most part (barring a very few exceptions); suffice it to say that I would not have bothered seeing this if it weren’t free, but I’m glad I did. It was pretty damn good. A friend asked me “Was it as gory, sleazy, and misogynistic as the original?”. The answer is yes, no, and yes. It’s just as gory and misogynistic (possibly even more so) than the original, but not near as sleazy. I think they knew they could not out sleaze Bill Lustig, and went for arty instead. For those of you groaning when they read that last line- I would have too if I hadn’t seen it, but somehow it works (and it’s not overly arty, to a goofy degree. just enough to make it a little offbeat). There’s no way Frodo could be as creepy, imposing, or dangerous seeming as Joe Spinell (RIP). Let’s get that out there right now. They knew that, and went with a different angle. It works. For one thing, the whole film (other than the last few minutes) is from a first person point of view- you see everything Frank (the killer) sees, and the only time you see him is when he sees himself in a reflective surface. This was a really cool way to experience his insanity (and he is quite insane- you get into his head a lot more than in the original). I’ve seen other movies do this for small parts of them, but never for the whole thing.
The plot follows the basic plot of the original- a very disturbed loner was abused by his prostitute Mommy (played by America Olivio of the “Friday the 13th” remake), and is compelled to murder young ladies, scalp them, and bring the scalps home and attach them to mannequins, which he talks to and interacts with as if they are the real people. He is befriended by a photographer (who likes to photograph mannequins in this one) and developes an attachment to her- can he overcome his need to kill for her, and live a normal life?
There are not many nudge nudge wink wink nods to the original (which is fine by me- tho there is one to Silence of the Lambs that made everyone in the screening room giggle), and the overall feel is less sleazy and gritty- it actually feels much more like American Psycho in tone than the original Maniac (including some small moments of black comedy). The actress who plays Anna, the photographer/ love interest is adequate, but not near as charismatic as Caroline Munroe in the original. The director previously made P2, which I saw but don’t really remember much, so it must not have been extra good or horribly bad. It was produced by Alexandre Aja, who has also never really impressed me that much with any of his movies (not even the much beloved High Tension), but I enjoyed this. It can exist alongside the original as an alternate dimension version of the same story and doesn’t piss on it’s legacy or embarrass anyone involved.
One last thing I’d like to comment on about it is how much I liked the score- it’s a totally retro synth score that recalls the original and sets the mood perfectly. It was done by someone simply named ‘Rob’.
After the screening I saw RUE MORGUE magazine editor-in-chief Dave Alexander leaving the screening room and asked him what he thought, and he said he really enjoyed it as well, and that RUE MORGUE would be doing a big piece on it in a future issue, so we can probably look forward to more coverage than the original got.