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Maniac! Reviews

Page 1 of 25

Super Reviewer

June 9, 2010
Raw, gritty, depraved and in your face are some of the words that can describe Maniac. This is a powerful and riveting film that when originally released created controversy. Effectively directed by William Lustig, this film tells the story of Frank Zito played by Joe Spinell in a tense performance that is quite mesmerizing. Maniac is a sick, depraved film, and if you truly want to be disturbed, watch it. I mean that as a compliment of course. Maniac is definitely terrifying; I mean there's nothing scarier than a serial killer stalking the streets, right? It's quite possibly the most disturbing film ever made, as the kills in this film seem convincingly realistic, these are not Friday the 13th Jason Voorhees style kills. That's what makes Maniac so different from every other slasher films, its realism. If you want a solid, disturbing horror film to watch, Maniac is the film for you. Of course this is not an extraordinary piece of cinema, but it is a pulse pounding film that has the power to truly shock you to the core. With that being said, this is not a film for everyone, as it is quite disturbing and unnerving. Fans of obscured horror films will certainly enjoy this one, and it is one of the most intense films in the genre. Maniac is a menacing horror picture that uses simple ideas to induce shock in its viewers. Spinell is great here, and he can definitely be a memorable villain that is quite memorable on-screen. For fans of good gore effects, this title will certainly satisfy, and the effects are well done by effects artist Tom Savini, who also plays Disco Boy in one of the film's most memorable scenes. If you love these types of films, then give it a shot, it is an underrated film, and one that does deserve to be rediscovered. Although violent, this is one of those Slasher films that should be seen due to a more realistic approach to its kills, and with that being said, it will certainly appeal to the diehard horror fans looking for memorable thrills.
Cory T

Super Reviewer

October 18, 2011
I would almost rate this as the best horror movie I've watched this season if it wasn't for the shlocky ending that sprinkles both sequel bait and betrays the psychological edge with cheaply phantasmagorical imagery like Frank's mother's corpse and the mannequins reanimating. Yes, the film earns its controversial reputation with ultraviolent depictions of scalpings and a shotgun blast in slow-motion, but horror movies aren't meant to be craven. The music by Jay Chattaway is haunting and like 'Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer', it is insightful as to the abnormal pathology of sociopaths and their addictive behavior. Frank speaks lucidly about the preservation of beauty and argues that the artist distills his subject perfectly in the given moment and the subject can never escape. Lustig chronicles a slice-of-life diary of Spinell who is squirm-inducing and brilliant in the role. What is so nonplusing about Frank is that he can switch into a highly charismatic playboy on a whim such as his first date with Caroline Munro where he teases her about the other eligible bachelors about her. The film is truly frightening and disturbingly doom-laden in such a fashion that it is not a jaunty experience, but it is indelible and Spinell is Oscar-worthy.
Keiko A. --Samurai--
Keiko A. --Samurai--

Super Reviewer

July 18, 2011

Really bad film i think i can relate to the famous head blowing off scene but still...

Good acting put terrible plotting and work. BTW GET INTO THE KILLERS MIND!!!!

Super Reviewer

March 30, 2011
A good slasher movie, Spinell is creepy as always, and he really is a maniac in this movie! It's very exciting and intense, I especially loved the climactic scene towards the end, it's brilliant. Overall, a really good movie, I recommend it.
Ariuza k.
Ariuza k.

Super Reviewer

January 2, 2011
You have your typical early 1980s Slasher flick that's no doubt a very notorious video nasty from England but it works somewhat better and takes it from perspectives of other people other then our serial killer who paints the place red with blood with the victims of his hunting knife as well as the all famous shotgun scene. Meany violent flicks I have seen with killer with knifes but I like it despite how bad it is. It tries to be a very violent slasher but turns into more of a splatter film.

Frank is some Italian American lo-life hooker loving loner who just happens to be angrier at what his mother did years ago to him before her accident. So like always women piss him off and he goes on a bloody rampage slaying young girls. In my review I would like to focus more on the characters more then the plot.

1. The Villain: Frank Zito is ugly. I mean really, really ugly. The reason why I point this out is that he has a face not even a hooker would love, so the fact that he later tries (and apparently succeeds) at romancing a gorgeous photographer named Ana (Caroline Munro) just adds to the Yeah Right factor of this movie.

2. The Victims: They are all stupid. Except for the hooker, she was just unlucky. Here's what bothered me. We're in New York, right? Okay, it's the New York of 1980 or so, but still, it's a big city and most people are careful. Not these people. And you ask where the FUCK is everyone????

Frank sees the photographer in the park. She takes his picture as he is in a creepy moment (and when ISN'T he in a creepy moment?) and then smiles and walks away. Frank walks toward her stuff, pretends to tie his shoes while kneeling by her camera bag and scopes out her address and he casually walks away. (Oh yeah, Frank, that was really cool. I didn't notice you were looking at her address because you were tying your sneakers. SMOOTH.)

Frank goes to Ana's apartment and when she asks who it is he says "My name is Frank Zito, you took a picture of me in the park," and she lets him in because God knows that strange men in parks pose absolutely no danger, especially when they track down your name and address from out of the freaking blue. My STALKER alarm would have been blaring insanely.

The Nurse: one of Frank's victims and in this scene we have slight stirrings of tension, but nothing ever results. Frank follows her into a subway station and she manages to find the only part of the subway with NO EXIT. Our really bright girl then hides in the ladies room, which is the only place she could have gone into without spraining an ankle or something and then proceeds to make more noise than a guy passing a kidney stone. Yes, I know she's scared because there is a MANIAC walking the streets of NY killing people and that's probably why she said no to her friend who asked her if she'd like a lift somewhere, and it's probably why she then walked down a deserted street and into an empty subway station when she thought she was being followed. She was scared stupid.

The Model: a friend of Ana's. Frank sees her in the studio for like 5 minutes and is later seen at her apartment door. He knocks and when she asks "Who is it?" he says "It's Frank Zito, I'm a friend of Ana's..." blah blah blah. She unlocks the door, doesn't notice that he is a creepy psycho looking motherfucker or that he clicks the little tab on her door which stops it from closing properly, and then she conveniently forgets to lock the door, thereby granting him easy access. Frank thanks you, Rita, he really does.

THE COPS: There's a citywide manhunt for the MANIAC killer and at the end of the movie we see the cops frantically going after FRANK. How many? We actually have two detectives going after Frank. The funniest part is what they do when they find him. They rush into his apartment, see him apparently dead on the bed, so they leave. They don't even check him. Too fucking funny.

The acting is bad, but it's to be expected. Ana was particularly bad, but she is absolutely gorgeous so who cares? Nothing much changes in horror as we still have people like that being hired. The chacircters are very likeable well... only Frank because he is cool and he does hit my top 20 villians. Okay, that is enough rambling hate. There are a few good things we can take away from this movie, too.

The effects are done by TOM SAVINI! So we have a lot of bright red blood and we get to see him and his mustache blown away.

Need to say anymore??? Buy the Blue Underground DVD 50% worth it.
Drew S

Super Reviewer

June 29, 2010
Much like Phantasm, it's filled to the brim with fantastic ideas that aren't really put to the screen too well. The acting is horrendous, the plot an unbelievable Freudian turd, and Joe Spinell is nearly impossible to take seriously as someone meant to be utterly repellent and demented but who primarily registers as gross. Still, there were aspects of the movie that totally endeared it to me. The third act is so warped and so perfect, a bizarre surrealist coda that comes out of nowhere. That nurse chase scene is truly frightening. The way Frank's apartment is decorated is a visually engaging, subtle testament to a twisted mind. I would totally set up my bachelor pad like that, except not so creepy, and without all the scalp mannequins, and ehhh maybe not. Really, 80s slashers are a total weak point of mine. Their mood and composition are so difficult to encapsulate. They're hazy and menacing, and they make you feel uncomfortable in a Stranger Danger kind of way, but they're very overt at the same time. House of the Devil came close. I suppose it's how movies like these probably seemed "cool" once upon a time, the kind of "cool" that got you hanging out with the wrong crowd, but now they're just sort of campy even though you can tell the reputation that they used to carry. Is this how we'll view our torture porn thirty years from now? Ah, film history in the making...
Anthony L

Super Reviewer

October 1, 2009
A fantastic 80's horror film that's been really overlooked! Joe Spinell is brilliant as the Maniac and Lustig's direction is superb! Savani's gore effects and cameo are an added treat. Highly recommended for horror fans!
Cassandra M

Super Reviewer

January 5, 2008
Over one century ago (1897 to be exact) in the dingy back streets of Montmartre, Paris, an eccentric ex-secretary to a Police commissioner named Oscar Metenier, opened the Theatre du Grand Guignol. For 65 years, groups of performers staged one-act plays that depicted graphic scenes of murder, mutilation and torture. Famous works by authors such as Charles Dickens and James Hadley Chase were adapted for Grand Guignol and made into, some might say, horrific gore-laden masterpieces. People's morbid curiosities kept the shows ever popular, all the way up until the Nazis invaded France during World War II. Perhaps because the French population was experiencing true horrors of their own, the urge to see such events portrayed on stage, quite obviously became a lot less alluring. The theatre never recovered, and it finally closed its doors for the last time in 1962. William Lustig's Maniac is basically Grand Guignol for the cinematic audiences of the eighties. A movie that viewers of a quainter disposition will describe as depraved, demoralising and redundantly mean spirited, while others have touted its story telling as artistic, ballsy and daring. Although its often labelled as a formulaic stalk and slash offering, it is actually a member of the sub, sub-genre that differentiates itself from the Halloween and Friday the 13th created format. Along with Nightmares in a Damaged Brain, Mardi Gras Massacre, and Don't go in the House; Maniac offers something refreshing, by giving the killer characterisation and making him more than just a loony in a mask with a machete.

The plot portrays the life of Frank Zito, an insane and stammering psychological mess of a man, with more than a few severe problems upstairs. His story unravels around his decent into madness, which stems from his seclusion and isolation from the outside world. He is a lonely, redoubtable character, with no friends or companionship; he's just alone with his fragmented mind to torment him. His desperation to feel accepted by civilisation results in him creating his own 'family' from female mannequins. To add realism to their beings and to make them as human-like as could be possible, he furnishes their heads with the scalps of women that he butchers remorselessly. In the first ten minutes, an unfortunate prostitute is ruthlessly slaughtered for no apparent reason, and the misogyny continues all the way through the movie; as nurses, models and innocent bystanders are gorily slain for nothing more than the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The creepiest thing about these murders, is the fact that Zito has no apparent understanding of the results of his actions. He reads headlines, which describe the feelings of a city left in fear by his spate of madness and he watches news updates that inform us of the aftermath of his bloodthirsty rein. But his reaction is non-existent; he shows no knowledge of any wrongdoing, almost like he is unaware that he commits such atrocities. His mental downfall takes a U-turn, when he meets up with Anna D'Antoni (Caroline Munro) a photographer that attracts his attention for the first time when she snaps him wondering through a park. We finally get to see a thoroughly different side to his character, - a romantic, insecure personality that's been buried beneath years of self-inflicted misery and emotional torture. There is a constant battle between two separate personalities that rages inside Zito's mind however, and Anna's fate depends upon whether the good or evil side emerges victoriously...

The opening sequence stays true to its stalk and slash counterparts; as the masked, heavy breathing Zito kills a loving couple on a beach. Lustig describes the scene as a homage to Jaws, only this time the monster is out of the sea and on land, thus explaining the beach setting. It's a well-handled commencement, with Savini adding the magic that he is most reputed for; and Robert Lindsay's competent photography creates energy that prevails throughout the whole movie. Although body count material is introduced without any characterisation or development, it can be argued that the story resolves around Zito; and to him, victims are only objects or playthings anyway. I have always considered Bill Lustig to be a highly underrated filmmaker. Maniac Cop was yet another great movie, although I would consider this to be one of his best - probably because he was relatively unknown when he worked it. The parts that were filmed inside the killer's flat are shot in complete silence, which effectively adds to the feeling of seclusion and abandonment. It's like the viewer is inside the character's apartment, but also inside his own remote world, where his loneliness has degenerated into an unrelenting insanity. It's added moments like these that make Maniac all the more creepy. The subway scene adds some awe-inspiring suspense, as Frank stalks a nurse through the station. Lustig does well to keep the atmosphere tense and the viewer is always aware that something is about to happen, meaning there is never any allowance for comfort in the fact that any of the characters will escape to safety. He also manages at least two effective jump-scares, the final Carrie-esque jolt being particularly memorable. Jay Chattaway provides a superb score to accompany the visuals, and Lorenzo Marinelli's editing is equally impressive.

Although you could never call Joe Spinnell a fantastic dramatic performer by any of his pre-Maniac work, Frank Zito (named as a nod to Joseph Zito the director of The Prowler and friend to Lustig and Savini) was undoubtedly the part he was put on this planet to play. It's a convincing performance that allowed the actor to immerse himself deep into something that he had researched thoroughly and accurately, giving his character a vivid portrait of realism that was necessary to create the child's nightmare-like quality that the movie possesses. Spinnell is Maniac and Maniac is Spinnell, there's no doubt about it; it was his signature role. It's impossible to imagine another character actor fitting the bill so perfectly. Not only does he play the part; he also looks and sounds it too. He wasn't the only one that hit a career high under Lustig's direction though; the ever-adorable Caroline Munro gave her most realistic portrayal too. Her star had just reached its zenith in 1980, before she became a scream queen in less memorable flicks such as Slaughter High and Faceless, which would supplement her income, well into motherhood. This also offered a chance to break away from the bikini-clad bimbo roles that she had been given up until that point; and it gave her the chance to try something a little different. I strongly respect her refusal to do any nudity, which cost a further contract with Hammer in the early seventies. It takes a strong women to reject such offers for the sake of her modesty, and Munro proved that she was just that; and her career strengthened because of it. It's worth noting that the pair were reunited two years later for Fanatic (aka The Last Horror Film), which lacked the gritty edge and invitingly sleazy surroundings of its predecessor, but attempted to cash-in on the fame that Lustig's film had earned from its gruesome reputation.

Maniac was filmed on super 16 mm and like the best slashers from this period, it was shot for the most miniscule of budgets ('under a million dollars'). A lot of the on-location work was staged illegally, without any insurance or authorised permission. Lustig anecdotes about the exploding head scene (no less than Tom Savini's, by the way), where they had to fire a shotgun through the windscreen of a car and then make a quick getaway, before the Police arrived to investigate the gunshot! Munro was given only one-day to rehearse the script before starting work, due to replacing Dario Argento's wife of the time, Daria Nicolodi. Admittedly, it does seem pretty strange that a woman with a name as Italian as Anna D' Antoni, would be played by an English Rose; but she does a good enough job and is truly a sight to behold. Many, MANY countries rejected this movie on the grounds of its unnecessary violence towards women; including the censors here in the UK, who made sure to add it to the DPP list almost immediately. The Philippines' board of film review was so outraged by what they discovered that they told the producers to take it to Satan instead of their country, and went on to describe it as 'unentertaining' and 'unfit for Human consumption'! Of course, knowledge of those monstrosities, only made it seem all the more curious to youngsters that had heard such tales of unruly degradation, and were eager to check it out for themselves; thus earning it a massive cult following. Upon release, it became immensely popular, although it was heavily criticised for its brutal violence. Spinnell said that the blood was never on screen long enough for his creation to be considered too gruesome. He lied; - there are parts of the movie that are limitlessly gory and blood-soaked. You'll find decapitations scalpings and dismemberment, - if you can name a gory way to slaughter a female, then you'll find it somewhere in here. Maniac is one of the only video-nasties that have managed to retain its shock factor, even after twenty-four years!

I saw an edited copy of this in the mid-nineties and was unimpressed. Perhaps my attentions were elsewhere or I was expecting something more? I can't be sure, but last night, watching it once again for this review, I found myself captivated. There are flaws, yes for certain. It's unlikely that a beauty as striking, as Anna would give the time of day to a misfit like Zito in the first place, and the end sequence is a little bizarre to say the least. But all niggles are forgiven when you acknowledge the effort that has been put into making this production as realistically as they possibly could. Credit has to be given to Spinnell for believing in the project and his dedication and research into serial killers deserves recognition. I haven't yet seen Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer, although I'm told that the two movies have a great deal in common, so I'm after a copy right now. Maniac has earned itself another fan, and I believe that it deserves to be seen. There has never been, and probably never will be, another movie so depraved and disturbing; so grab a copy whilst you've got the chance. It's an innovative and daring take on the standard slasher genre, which succeeds because it is just that.
Lafe F

Super Reviewer

July 9, 2007
A freaky sleazy horror slasher. A creepy maniac named Frank Zito (Joe Spinell) goes out at night in New York city and kills people, scalping the girls as gorey trophies to adorn his mannequins with. There are some hilarious extended scenes of Frank talking to himself which had me chuckling. Things look hopeful when Frank starts dating a beautiful photographer (Caroline Munroe), but it's hard for him to keep his maniac side under control. I never understood what she saw in him. Effects master Tom Savini did extremely graphic gore effects. This film boasts one of the most realistic shotgun killings ever witnessed on screen. There's a heart-stopping subway cat-and-mouse chase with a Nurse. The ending is stunning and controversial. The freaky synthesizer music really adds to the weirdness. This is a creepy 80's horror classic, that I always feel guilty watching.
Michael G

Super Reviewer

June 8, 2007
Not so good. Maniac's just kind of boring. Whoever did the sound editing for this movie needs to be punched in the face once every five seconds for ten years straight. The over-the-top groaning almost made me lose my mind. Seeing Tom Savini get it on in a parked car was kind of amusing, but otherwise all you're in for is an out there performance by Joe Spinell.

Super Reviewer

March 26, 2007
A career best performance by Joe Spinell - an actor I only recognized by appearence rather than by name up until I saw this film. He plays the part of "Frank Zito", a disturbed and derranged man, mentally scarred by an abusive upbringing by his mother. He prowls the New York streets seeking out women to kill, scalping them, and bringing back their hair to place upon various mannequins he has placed around his home.

It's quite an effective, shocking and disturbing movie, with plenty of gore, some well shot stalking sequences and a believable psychotic performance by Joe Spinell. It's easy to see why this move gained such a bad rep back in the day, and you'd find difficulty in labelling this film as "Entertainment" with it's indiscriminant acts of violence towards women. But it is a good, and if you can stomach it, watchable horror movie, which has it's memorable scenes. Tom Savini, who also has a brief role in the movie, supplies the films make up effects and produces one of the most disgustingly impressive exploding head scenes I've ever seen! The movie ends strongly too with the films stand-out creepy scene that will stay in the mind for a while afterwards.

In my opinion, it's one of the best Horror movies of the 80's and one of the most disturbing films ever. I'd recommend it to all fans of the 'stalk and slash' genre.
vieras e

Super Reviewer

October 10, 2006
The best bit about these kind of movies is not the gratuitous gore, the tragicomical dialogue, not even the zany plot, but the music. When you hear that Moog start up, you know there's going to be some bloodshed.
Cameron W. Johnson
Cameron W. Johnson

Super Reviewer

October 14, 2013
"He's a maniac, maniac on the floor, and she's dancing like she never danced before... without a scalp!" I'm so very sorry, people, but if you didn't want that, then you shouldn't have read this article, because, come on, you knew it was coming. Well, maybe that reference isn't entirely warranted, because this film came out during the first year of the '80s, too early to be as '80s as that song, but hey, I need something kind of lighthearted after a film this brutal, so play on, Michael Sembello. There's an irony to my seeking out something lighthearted after seeing a film this harsh, seeing as how the film in question came out December 26, 1980, because nothing says, "Merry Christmas" quite like a traumatized New Yorker going around scalping people. Hey, this film did come out a week after "Raging Bull", so maybe William Lustig wanted to wait until Jake LaMotta had his film released so that he could ride off of his uncle's revived name, which I suppose would be a good marketing strategy if it wasn't for the fact that no one knows who Lustig is, let alone who his uncle is. I can see the nepotistic tagline now: "From the creation of the creation of the creator of the guy whose story led to the creation of 'Raging Bull'", which would be fitting, because, again, as harsh as this film, we're going to need something silly, or at least silly in a lighthearted way. Yeah, this film is over-the-top in it's own disturbing way, and I can run with that, because the film is far from a challenge to watch based on quality, which isn't to say that there aren't some repelling aspects beyond the gore.

Really, more-or-less to my surprise, there are a couple of elements to this film that are unique, or at least refreshing, but when conventions hit the scene, they hit relatively hard, or at least seem to, because, really, it's hard to clean out all of the familiar gunk out of a film of this type, yet there's still a good deal of potential for uniqueness that is squandered enough to call your attention more toward the familiar elements, which in turn draw your attention more toward the natural shortcomings within this familiar story concept. There is a plot here, but not much of one, and it's not like there's a wealth of depth to the basic premise, so what you end up with is a drama that really isn't too much more than a simple showcase of the horrible deeds and horrible guilt of a profoundly disturbed individual who cannot control his violent urges, and while a premise like that is milked quite well by William Lustig, juice, or, well, milk, it thin in supply, and it's hard to ignore that when the film really starts to drag its feet. A film this minimalist was always going to be kind of aimless, but it's hard to fully excuse the dragginess within C. A. Rosenberg's and Joe Spinell's script, because if there is a plot, it's all too often pushed to the side for the sake of excess material and filler that, even for a film like this, get to be repetition, then devolve into aimlessness, and perhaps even dip their toes into monotony. Stopping just shy of 90 minutes, this film doesn't have a whole lot of time to waste, yet it does, and that reflects the thinness in this film in a way that would drive less realized projects into mediocrity, if they're lucky, so I give a whole lot of credit to the direction and writing here for saving the final product as engaging more often than not, yet I cannot ignore that dragginess, even when it becomes easy to ignore most other aspects of the draggy drama. On top of being intentionally draggy, the film boasts an intentionally meditative atmospheric that very rarely abates, and while it is effective enough to keep dullness at bay on the whole, before too long, all of the dry, or at least over-intense attention to sparse storytelling wears down on you, leaving resonance to be hurt by the atmosphere more than reinforced, and leaving you to either simply fall out of the film, or find your awareness of natural shortcomings grow deeper. This film could have easily fallen flat, so it's pretty impressive that this film keeps all but consistent with a fair degree of engagement value, but that engagement value is limited, not just by such questionable storytelling moves as conventions or limp pacing, but by this story concept's simply being too limited in dynamicity for a rewarding effort to be crafted. The storytelling mistakes simply pull the final straw that secure the final product as underwhelming, and yet, with that said, the integrity of this effort never truly collapses, because as flawed and naturally limited as this film very much is in a lot of ways, what is done right is done well enough to keep you going, even when the soundtrack is evoked.

Synthesizers were terribly popular in horror films throughout the mid-'70s and '80s, and sure enough, this film, falling right in the middle of the craze, features a score that is heavily driven by electronic instrumentation, yet where score composer Jay Chattaway could have succumb to the tendencies to get too cheesily stylish with the electronica, he combines then-modern scoring sensibilities with more traditionalist touches in order to craft a refreshing and very effective score, whose lighter moments have a certain Italian whimsy to them that is pretty lovely, and whose particularly prominent darker moments play with cleverly intentionally disjointed compositions and very atmospheric instrumental minimalism in order to create a stylish a brood that captures the haunting intensity of this film's tone. Chattaway's score isn't phenomenal, but it's near-piercingly effective, joining cinematography by Robert Lindsay that, while dated in quality, immerses with its intimacy in standing as an impressive aesthetic attribute that draws you into this world, and does so in a stylish fashion that further engages. Style is arguably more impressive than substance, but that's not at all to say that I can't commend the heart of this meditative thriller, for although this story concept is mighty minimalist when you take out of account the somewhat questionable idea of telling the story with little attention to actual plot, the subject matter dealing with an intimate and often harshly realist portrait of a serial killer that primarily focuses on the violence and guilt of a dangerous mind is fairly refreshing and pretty intriguing, and its interpretation into this sparse and often formulaic plot has its own adequately realized and intriguing aspects. Potential is limited here, but it still stands, and when William Lustig does it justice, it's hard to not be engaged, for although the meditative atmosphere that Lustig pretty much drives storytelling with wears you down as bland after a while, especially when there's not a whole lot of meaty material to soak up, its genuinely effective moments - of which there are quite a few - draw on the aforementioned brooding style and an almost respectably audacious attention to graphic violence and disturbing imagery in order to sell a sense of tension, while some cleverly stylish, almost tasteful meditations upon the more dramatic elements of this intimate character study all but resonate, or at least about as much as they can with a film this held back by its own story concept. When I tell you that there's only so much meat to this story concept, I really mean it, because there is so much inspiration to storytelling, yet the final product still falls a fair distance shy of truly rewarding, so I can't promise that Lustig's efforts will sink their teeth all that deeply into you, but I can promise those willing to run with a film like this a fair bit of engagement value that cannot be ignored, especially when it goes anchored by a force like Joe Spinell. Serving as both co-writer and star, Spinell had a lot of heart into this project, and that's reflected in a performance that isn't simply inspired or strong, but just downright outstanding, as the somehow both near-effortless-seeming and pain-staking-seeming commitment that Spinell puts into portraying the look and disposition of a deeply traumatized schizophrenic is remarkable enough, without a complimentary, penetrating emotional intensity that sells the cruel passion and overwhelming anguish of a man who stands guilty of and over terrible deeds. If you see this film for no other reason, see it for Spinell's revelatory lead performance, and stay for some effective thrills, because while neither Spinell's performance nor Lustig's can carry this film past the underwhelmingness that plagues its minimalist story concept, what is done right is done well enough to make an engaging thriller, even if it isn't likely to consistently thrill.

When the bloody affair is finally done, some conventional, draggy and even dryly meditative plotting behind a minimalist story concept with only so much potential for bite and plot in the first place render the final product too scarred to carry on past underwhelming, but some refreshing and effective elements to the story concept that go brought to life by anything from a strong, stylishly brooding score by Jay Chattaway, to a reasonably inspired directorial performance by William Lustig, and an outstanding lead acting performance by Joe Spinell prove to be enough to make the cult thriller "Maniac" a frequently engaging and sometimes resonant effort, in spite of some serious shortcomings.

2.5/5 - Fair
Francisco  G.
Francisco G.

Super Reviewer

March 4, 2013
With it's downbeat mood, superb but bleak performance from the lead, ultra gory segments and misoginy aplenty, Maniac is a shocking but ultimately flawed flick. It takes too long to get to the point and it's repetitive on it's structure, showing frailties on the ending as well. Still worth a shot for fans of the genre who want to be left with a sour taste on their mouths.

Super Reviewer

June 11, 2009
This movie was one hell of a gore fest! I mean seriously I think this ranks right up there with the beasts of horror cinema! The decaptations in this film would have made me sick if I had a weak stomach. I kid you not,the first death scene could have any squirm. You have to keep in mind that this a low budget horror film. Kudos To Tom Savini for the gore effects, he really convinced me.

As for the plot, I felt it could have been Much better! I do like the fact that in certain scenes the villan( played briallany by Joe Spinell) seems like a normal person. This made the scenes when he snaped that much more interesting and creppy. The most creppy scenes for me was when he was talking to the manikins.The manikins had blood and hair from his victims,very disturibing....

I do feel that they could have made the story more interesting though. I mean this was slow moving at times. Oh and most of the characters are sooo boring! Damn did they forget that part?? Anywho i didnt get how this movie could be so amazing in some scenes,and then fall miserablly in others. When the gore effects are on the screen,this movie feels like one of the freakest ride off your life. When the gore isnt running down the screen not so much...
Lee K

Super Reviewer

January 3, 2009
I love this movie, one of my fave from the 80's horror collection. Interesting storyline and not for the squeemish!
Christopher B

Super Reviewer

January 28, 2008
A sleaze extravaganza with Joe Spinell. Go into the mind of a psycho and then immediately hit the showers, trust me you will feel dirty. A grindhouse great.

Super Reviewer

July 2, 2007
Quite in contrast to the lurid film the promotional art promised, this flick is dull, cheap and forgettable. For the gorehounds we have 1 amazing display of make-up wizardry by Tom Savini (shotgun makes head go BOOOM) and 1 very good one (a 1 second shot of a scalp being removed). The rest of the film is average make-up and blood at best. For everyone else, there is absolutely nothing to find here that would make the film anything close to watcheable.

The much hyped performance by Joe Spinnel is not just underwhelming, it sucks. He certainly looks the part (coming across as a drug-addled, greasier Ron Jeremy in the middle stages of AIDS) and he gets props for refusing to overact, but he never seems alive. His mumbling and monologues lack any sort of emotion and nothing about him seems particularly conflicted or disturbed, which is odd considering the things he is made to do and say. It is even more ridiculous when the gorgeous photographer falls for him, and he goes into his 'ladies man' mode. This is a complete shift from the socially ackward character portrayed in earlier scenes and both sides never really come together.

The direction is flat, mostly of the point-and-shoot school, and the writing is absolute garbage. The film is, no joke, a series of murder set pieces, most of which are not even set up properly. There is no sense of chronology, passage of time or plot structure here. Things just happen and then the film ends.

If I were to compare this one to two other films, they would be "New York Ripper" and "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer". Like Ripper, it is a misogynistic piece of garbage, but at least Ripper went full out creating a disgusting New York where everything you touch could potentially give you a disease, and everyone you meet is a sexual deviant. It may be disgusting and offensive, but it will certainly not leave you indifferent.

Henry, on the other hand, is an absolutely superior film which owes a lot to this. They are so similar, in fact, that John McNaughton probably could have named this as an inspiration. That film, however, was well made, responsable, very well acted and a true portrait, not an excuse for a series of mysoginistic set pieces.

Overrated both in terms of content and quality, this one is a must-skip, unless you absolutely have to see Savini's shotgun sequence. Do not be fooled by the cover art and controversy. Steer clear.
March 27, 2010
Gave this another look this evening, the film holds up remarkably well, specifically the wild muttering monologues that Spinell has in his room alone with the trophies from his kills, he's very off-putting and sweaty in almost every scene.

My only issue might be with the strange shine that Caroline Munro inexplicably takes to Spinell's creepy looking character, she is waaay too happy to be spending time with a guy that I'd cross the street to avoid, and I'm a grown ass man!

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