Released 1980

Review by: Fiji Mermaid

Maniac is the story of serial killer Frank Zito who goes out and kills women in a twisted form of revenge for what his abusive mother did to him as a child. Frank will scalp his victims to bring back to his apartment to then afix onto the heads of the mannequins he has "decorated" his apartment with. One of the strangest things about his motivation for murder is that he keeps a shrine of his mother at home and seems to miss his mother as much as he hates her.

I found this film very entertaining from the aspect of focusing completely on the killer instead of it just being a by-the-numbers slasher film, which I think the trailer and original poster art sort of seem to depict. In most films from the late 70s and into the 80s, it seems the standard protocol was to depict a faceless killer that select cast members were to to battle with and survive. I do enjoy those films as well, but focusing on Frank made for a very interesting film. Seeing the grisly murders is one thing, but seeing his preparation and what he was like after the murders sitting in his apartment with his inner voices talking to him gave for a very creepy vibe. There is not a whole lot of detail to go in during this part of the film as it's basically showing us the character and the violence he commits.

For three quarters of the film it's Frank going out and hunting people down to satisfy his desire to kill. However near the end of the film Frank changes his M.O. and instead of just quickly zeroing in on a random victim he finds a young photographer, Anna, who he appears to fancy more than his previous victims. Instead of just following her somewhere to attack her, he finds out her name and phone number and then posing as a fellow artist interested in her work he begins to inject himself into her life. Admittedly, he comes off as pretty "normal" when he's with Anna, but I found her openness to just accept a date with a total stranger a bit odd. It's hard to say how much time passes, but he will call her and get her gifts and she seems to really like him. Near the end of the film Frank calls her from a pay phone and asks if she can quickly meet him to hang out. She readily agrees and he picks her up. Something interesting here is he is no longer dressed up in a nice suit, but wearing his standard murder suit of winter coat and stocking cap, which lets us know the relationship is coming to an end. Frank says he'd like to stop at his mom's grave to pay respects and drop off a wreath. While at the gravesite Frank begins to cry and then turns on Anna and begins to choke her. She's able to get away and run for it. Frank gives chase but loses her in the dark and fog. Anna surprises him from behind and seriously wounds him by hitting him in the arm with a shovel. Wounded and clearly aware he's not getting her he heads home.

Once Frank gets home he lays down crying and begins to hallucinate. He hears the mannequins talking to him with the voice of his victims and then eventually change into the women he's killed. The begin to yell at him and then attack him stabbing him and eventually cutting his head off. The next scene we see is a police car racing through the city. Two detectives hop out of the car at Frank's apartment and kick in his door guns drawn. They see Frank on the bed with blood on his arm and a knife stabbed in his stomach which it looks like he did himself. The cops don't say anything but seem visibly let down that he's dead. They walk out of the apartment and slam the door. The camera zooms in on Frank's close eyes face. Then a sting of audio and his eyes open suddenly. End of movie.

A few of other things worth noting regarding the film is that it has a pretty great creepy score by Jay Chattaway that did score work on the film "Silver Bullet". The gory special effects were done by special effects legend Tom Savini that fans of the early "Friday the 13th" films, "Dawn of the Dead" and "Day of the Dead" should dig. I recently read that the song "Maniac" from the movie "Flashdance" was inspired by this film and originally written with lyrics geared to this movie. It was never officially created and Michael Sembello and song co-writer Dennis Matkosky re-worked the lyrics for "Flashdance". I thought that was some cool trivia!

Theatrical Trailer

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