Having seen the gruesome MANIAC countless of times since its 1980 release, you’d think it would just age like fine wine. Not so much, as it turns out. Last evening, feeling like watching a good old fashion slasher flick, I sat in front of my flat screen TV and decided to revisit the William Lustig controversial classic. For those still clueless to this title (and they do exist), it made headlines back in the day for being the sickest, most misogynistic horror film ever produced, and with good reasons. The killings are as repugnant as the direction itself (Lustig’s camera tends to focus way too seductively on the kills); and the 42nd street setting is just as crude and dreary. The story revolves around a troubled loner, played by the late Joe Spinell, who surrounds himself with mannequins that wear scalps from his many—and I mean many—women victims.
Watching the flick this time around, I found myself criticizing it like you wouldn’t believe. So much so that you’d probably would have told me to shut the hell up, and I probably would have slugged you for it (see what horror movies do to people?!). But I was faced with a harsher reality, one that I clearly didn’t expect: I was turning my back on MANIAC. Yes, that same flick I used to praise as one of the greatest pieces of low-budget filmmaking. Now, for many reasons, I find it to be vicious, insulting to women, and a bit boring to tell you the truth. Though I still must praise the killing scenes, for they are the most efficient. Everything caught on film beg for a repeat performance.
Though Ludwig tries to soften the blow by incorporating a sub-plot including photographers, models and a would-be romance to his overstated storyline, I got to say that the end result is just as uninspiring; like watching another inept film altogether. That leaves starlet Caroline Monroe who’s one sweet-looking mama, but even her onscreen presence fails to add anything magical. Ditto for the climactic scene involving a cemetary, Caroline herself, and a dead mother rising from the foggy grave. While it pricks your interest, it does little but look amateurish in a dumb and twisted way.
And how about the ending? What’s up with that? Maybe I should listen to the audio commentary on my disc to get a clearer picture, for as is, I am completely at loss. BIG SPOILER AHEAD Why would two cops barge into an apartment, look at the bloody comatose body of a serial killer, then just leave as Spinell opens his eyes and stares at the camera? It just doesn’t make much sense. END OF SPOILER. And let’s not start about the nurse being chased in an underground train station (I know, I’m back-paddling). I may not be the most thorough person around, but I flat out saw other people waiting for the train. Logically, the character should have gone to them for help. Unless she was as thick as the antagonist’s waistline, which considering the fact-based evidence is just about plain right… I know, it’s only a film and I shouldn’t get that worked up over it, but it bothers me when directors take us for granted like that. And if it means that I’m past the cool dude stage and acting more like my dad, so be it. I’m all for the more realistic horror films anyway. Well, that is until the next lame brain slasher flick strikes my fancy.