Director William Lustig’s Maniac caused its share of controversy upon release in 1980, with the late film critic Gene Siskel labeling the film as nothing more than grisly and hateful toward women. Siskel had a valid point, but Lustig understood what fans of the slasher genre wanted, and delivered a grimy, bloody, and exploitive tale that remains a fan favorite more than thirty years later.  2013 saw the release of a bigger budget remake that may have been a bit less grimy, but just as bloody.

Frank Zito (Elijah Wood) has recently taken over his family’s Los Angeles mannequin sales business. He lives over the shop, spending countless hours perfecting his collection. This all seems pretty normal given his profession. Secretly though, while his days are spent meticulously restoring vintage mannequins, he spends his nights brutally killing and scalping women. He brings the scalps home to decorate the mannequins, with whom he relieves his traumatic childhood as the son of a negligent prostitute.

By chance, Frank meets Anna (Nora Arnezeder), a photographer with an interest in the art of mannequin craftsmanship. Oddly, Frank finds himself developing feelings beyond the desire to kill. The two actually start dating, and for the first time in years, Frank almost seems content.  Is this new relationship enough to bury the beast within him? Will Anna discover Frank’s grisly crimes?

Maniac isn’t an easy sit. Director Franck Khalfoun retains the ick factor that makes the original film so memorable. Frank makes no bones about the fact that he’s looking to slaughter women. He’s a guy with serious mommy issues, and he figures that somehow, real female hair will bring the mannequins to life, creating a family of sorts, for him and his delusional perspective.  Mannequins are Frank’s best option for a family because to him, the world is full of forward, sexually provocative woman who represent the neglectfulness of his mother. The mannequins can’t hurt him. There’s no doubt Frank was at the very least, psychologically abused, and those scars run deep.

Elijah Wood is small in stature, which benefits him here. Appearing timid, it’s initially a shock when he butchers his first victim. He just doesn’t ‘look’ like the kind of guy who would do such a thing. Nora Arnezeder as the photographer is the opposite of this personality. She is confident and self assured; she calms Frank a bit. Of course, the relationship won’t end well, but the dynamic between the two leads is no less interesting.

Maniac features a high level of gore and blood. There are some graphic sex scenes It’s safe to say that the film delivers on its title and it’s not for everyone. Maniac is best reserved for those who love slashers and gore. Gene Siskel would not approve.

Framed at the 2.39:1 aspect ratio, IFC’s 1080p presentation is pretty good. Some slight compression artifacts are evident, but they aren’t particularly distracting. Detail is fairly sharp, textures are good. While the film isn’t awash in color, all the blood looks quite natural. Black levels are representative. All in all, not a reference quality transfer but one that definitely feels true to source and which seems to recreate the theatrical image quality accurately.

The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix is very impressive. Surround activity and directional effects help to create tension. The score is used effectively for similar purposes, and spread throughout the soundfield. Dialogue is clear and concise throughout, and there are no issues with crackles, hisses, etc.

English SDH and Spanish subtitles are available.

The following extras are included:

  • Audio Commentary: Elijah Wood, director Franck Khalfoun, and executive producer Alix Taylor discuss the details and difficulties of the film’s creation.
  • Making Of (HD, 1:06:21) A lengthy documentary about the production, featuring a mix of behind-the-scenes material and cast/crew interviews.
  • Poster Gallery (HD) A small user-directed gallery with three poster designs.
  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 4:09) A few quick cut scenes.
  • Trailer (HD: 2:09)