Thursday, 2 October 2014

I warned you not to go out tonight

In 2006 Alex Aja knocked one out of the park with his English language debut, a re-imagining of Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes. Equal parts atomic cautionary tale, haunting creepshow and ultra-violent gorefest, it remains for me one of the great modern horror remakes.

Six years later, this time as producer and co-writer of 2012's Maniac, Aja once again reminded us that remakes can sometimes be very worthwhile endeavours. Directed by longtime Aja collaborator Franck Khalfoun (seen here being slaughtered in spectacular fashion in High Tension), Maniac 2012 is a compelling update on William Lustig's thirty-four year old shocker.

However, Elijah Wood's take on Frank Zito is different enough to Joe Spinell's that it serves to make this new film more than just another update for a new generation. The two films stand apart as distinctly different character studies of a very sad, sick man. Wood's performance, as well as some really interesting stylistic changes, elevate Khalfoun's Maniac above many of it's remake brethren, making this a truly worthy companion piece to the original.

I'm not being hyperbolic when I say that Khalfoun's Maniac is for me a near perfect horror movie. Wood's portrayal of Frank is excellent, bringing sympathy to a character who is as vile and repellent as they come. Without that pathos, both versions of Maniac would be little more than exercises in graphic sadism, having no more emotional impact on the viewer than Fulci's New York Ripper (which is a great flick, but for different reasons). Maxime Alexandre's cinematography (he also shot Aja's gorgeous looking early movies) is drenched in grimy, neon-lit atmosphere, thanks to good use of late night cityscapes to create an urban setting that is both alienating and desolate. The central conceit of the movie, that everything is seen from Frank's point of view, is skillfully handled as well, making the whole sordid experience that much more visceral. And speaking of viscera, the gore is absolutely top notch, easily trumping Savini's celebrated work on the original.

Finally, Robin Coudert's throbbing, menacing score is a nostalgic throwback that struck a chord with me on a deeper level than most other '80s tribute scores, especially this collaboration with Chloë Alper that I couldn't get out of my head for weeks after seeing it. I still listen to this track all the time.

Don’t wanna fall apart again. 
Count to three.
We're gonna jump after three, 
you mean that much to me.

Can’t you see? 
Nobody likes you but me. 
Finally, someone who understands. 
Now you want to stay
I won't be a fool again.
I'm not made that way

Can't you see? 
Nobody out here but me. 
The other side of town 
And now you want to stay, 
I won't be a fool again. 
We're all made this way.

I can see,
your head is stuck in the tree 
and sure you'll never leave in times of emergency 
When you walked away, 
You took all I had left to me 
All of everything 

Falling apart again 
Falling apart again 
Don't wanna fall apart again. 

Don't make me fall apart again
Don't make me fall apart again
Don't make me fall apart again
Don't make me fall apart again.