The streets of Los Angeles seem quiet and safe, but they are not. The serial killer, scalping his victims, goes hunting again. During the day, Frank is the quiet owner of a mannequin restoration workshop, and at night – a ruthless maniac who kills exclusively women. But his measured life of a quiet maniac changes when a young photo artist Anna appears in it, who needs his help in holding an exhibition. The further their relationship develops, the more difficult it becomes for Frank to make a choice – another scalp as a trophy or real love.
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This film, first of all, is evidence of two simple things: first – even in very specific and limited in their field of activity subgenres of horror, you can achieve fantastic results without resorting to hateful templates; and the second – such a thing as ‘remake’, in itself is not synonymous with the word ‘failure’, since everything depends solely on the skill of the creators. In this particular case, the film was released not only technically modernized, but also received a new author’s concept.
Elijah Wood plays the classic lonely urban assassin here with trauma from the past that is reflected in his victims and will unfold as the story unfolds. He chooses girls according to a certain principle (I’m afraid if I say on what – someone might consider it a spoiler), and he, like other similar individuals whom we can observe in genre cinema, has a certain passion for ‘collecting’, the subject of which is the scalps of girls, which he, later, attaches to mannequins, apparently collecting his ‘big family’. Before that, many filmmakers tried to ‘get into the head of a sick person’ and see how he sees himself and his role in events – but here the creators did it in the literal sense of the word. The events of the film are shown from the first person – the viewer sees everything that happens through the eyes of a maniac. The decision is as difficult technically as it is artistically controversial. It seemed especially controversial to me at first – it would seem that such a presentation of the story should quickly get bored. The first scene of the murder, then the conversation of the hero on the dating site with the next potential victim and the subsequent dinner at a restaurant – at this moment you are just adapting to this style of storytelling; and although the creators quite ingeniously insert episodes with mirrors into the plot, in which we can see the hero’s emotions, this seems to be not enough. But these doubts occur only at the beginning. The further the film moves forward, and the more it affects the psyche, the more clearly the whole skill of the crew is felt, since the action gradually but confidently clings. At first, it is simply interesting to observe everything through the eyes of the killer, but then interest in his personality, as such, is already awakening. The film never tries to somehow justify this monster, but it does its best to give the viewer a feel for what a nightmare is going on in Frank’s head. It is not only the bloody scenes of brutal murders that are frightening here – there are also creepy surreal nightmares of Frank. Scenes with reflections of the hero give an idea of ââhis emotional state, but there are also some fantasies and flashbacks where there is an opportunity to see Frank from the outside and appreciate the power of Elijah Wood’s strongest performance. With all the complexity and the limitations imposed by the chosen concept, the actor is impeccable. His character touches on an emotional level. There can be no question of understanding, but there is a clear connection with the viewer. All this adds interest to the film in completely different dimensions. For example, in traditional slasher, the factor of surprise is very important, when the killer ‘unexpectedly appears’ from somewhere – but in this case, the viewer knows all the time where the killer is, and such elements are impossible by definition. And, of course, it is not possible to build some kind of ‘detective’ intrigue here. And thus, moving away from some elements of the horror design, the authors have made every effort to replace them with others. In this case, instead of the standard “scarecrows”, the picture works very powerfully psychologically.
I would like to separately note the sense of proportion that the film undoubtedly possesses. I’m talking about concentration now, not showiness. Yes, he is incredibly cruel and disgusting – but all these episodes work to the fullest solely because of the clear emotional balance and competent distribution of the size of the picture. Abuse of them would immediately destroy the whole viscous atmosphere of the film, and would bring it closer to the category of entertaining popcorn slashers, where everything goes on a knurled rut, and the atmosphere is replaced by irony. However, this is not observed here. The action never seems feigned; and the notes of black humor, if they are noticeable closer to the finale, are only a salutary reaction of the viewer’s psyche, which refuses to perceive the nightmare that falls from the screen. Yes – there will be a climax. I didn’t talk about balance for nothing. Little by little, but with confident steps they bring us to her – and, of course, one cannot but recall the invaluable contribution to this action of Nora Arnezeder (by the way, she could recently be seen in ‘Words’).
The new ‘Maniac’ is incredibly brutal and disgusting to see; which, in principle, should be so. However, in order to orient the viewer in the right direction, I can say that comparing this film, with all its aesthetics, to classic slashers like Friday the 13th is like comparing Refna’s Drive to the Fast and Furious franchise. Hope the analogy is clear? By the way, even the synthetically atmospheric soundtrack here also, in part, reminds of the eighties. But this is so, by the way. But in fact – such a smart, powerful and, in all respects, outstanding horror, I have not seen for a very long time.
Codec: HEVC / H.265
Resolution: 4K (2160p)
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
Original aspect ratio: 2.39:1
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
German: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
English-SRT, German SDH.