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Dec

posted by admin | December 4, 2013 | Drama, Horror movies, New Releases, Reviews by the Goon, screeners, Suspense

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7th Day
2012 – Not Rated – Dire Wit Films

I will always believe that the most frightening films are the ones that could actually happen. Movies that know how to prey on you when you are most vulnerable. Films like The Strangers, Rear Window or anything with Taylor Lautner (or just the mere fact that he is getting work is truly terrifying). Among these things, real monsters, are serial killers. They are very real and they could be anywhere. It’s a dark, horrific truth we have to live with daily, but we brush it aside, like most FOX sitcoms and ignore it. But every now and then a film that depicts these real life monsters comes along and reminds us that we are not always safe when we think we are. Such a film is 7th Day, as it takes us into a week, day by day, of the life of a sociopathic killer.

And right away the film gets its hands dirty. A young woman oddly dressed like Mork from Ork gets stabbed in the neck by a bearded man in a baseball cap, without even so much as a final “Nanoo Nanoo.” This is when our humble serial killer, Allen, introduces himself and narrates who he is, what he does and why he does it throughout the film. Sure Allen is just a regular guy, with a regular job. He believes like everyone else that he is well liked and unappreciated… but he has a very strange hobby, to say the least. This narration is a clever little insight as to what goes through Allen’s mind (and possibly other serial killers), but we’ll get into that a little later on in the review.

7d_2The life of a serial killer sure can be lonely, as Allen describes, but the solitude is necessary. It all ties in with his theories about survival of the fittest, as you now see he has been describing all his thoughts and processes to a tall man, who looks like melted wax, dressed in a suit and long coat with a microphone fused into his hand with wires jutting out, reminding me of Max Renn’s gunhand from Videodrome. Most of the time when we see Allen narrating to this man (or creature), his mouth isn’t moving and it’s not some sort of dubbing flaw. It’s obvious and intentional. Perhaps a look into his broken psyche?

Speaking of a broken psyche, Allen truly believes that a waitress where he works, Denise, understands him and thinks just like him. He’ll go into detail about how he wish he could have a normal life with her, but it just isn’t what he was meant for. When Allen isn’t at work arguing with his co-worker Dave and being smitten over Denise, he spends his free time stalking his prey, or hunting as he calls it. On occasion, even loneliness gets to Allen, as he demonstrates by having sex with a recently murdered victim, although it doesn’t romanticize the idea of necrophilia. He’ll remind you that it’s not something he typically does (so you know, don’t worry about it) and if it were an issue, he’d get a girlfriend. Simple as that.

And this is where we see Allen going against his own words, but not in a hypocritical sense. It’s as if Allen views himself differently and he’s outside looking in. While stalking some more prey in the park, a pretty lady jogger stops to talk to Allen and it seems like maybe she is hitting on him. Hey, Allen is a single guy and he has something to offer. You kind of want him to win this and go on a date with the girl, but he’s too damn awkward and reacts the way most shy males do… he pees in his pants like a five year old. And do you think this attractive young lady is understanding about this? No. She flat out makes fun of him and ridicules him like a jock in high school. Just because a dude wets the bed in his 30’s or 40’s doesn’t mean that he’s a loser! It’s a medical condition! Oh, excuse me… a little bit of nerd rage was released.

7d_3All of the things Allen claims not to take part in or need in his life are the very things you see him falling victim to constantly throughout the film, like drug use and having sex with corpses. As Allen explains it, you do believe him, but ultimately it’s Allen trying to convince himself and not us. But why do we believe him? Why do we watch this monster act out these atrocities? Because Alan is a believable person just as much as he is a believable monster. He’s not some unstoppable killing machine like Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers or some sophisticated homicidal maniac like Patrick Bateman. Allen is that unassuming guy that would sit at the bar with his head down, hat covering his eyes that you pay no attention to. He blends in to the point where he is practically invisible and that’s what makes him more dangerous.

As the days go on, Allen narrates more to this creature, detailing his childhood and how his brother would have sexual relations with his mother, dress Allen up like a woman and beat him… and then have sex with him. If you’re anything like me, you had simultaneous feelings of disgust and sympathy. That’s a good thing. That means you’re still human, so hold on to that feeling. Fortunately, his brother choked to death in the kitchen, which happens to be the same room where his father killed himself. Allen’s mother hated the kitchen and given that and the history of deaths in this room, makes it Allen’s favorite. His other favorite room would be the basement, which he gleefully gives us the tour of with a female victim tied up on the floor. Displaying the gruesomely, jaw dropping practical effects in this movie, he uses a box cutter (a tool that always makes me wince in pain) and cuts a hole in her back, but he’s not done there. Poking his finger in it and rooting around like he’s trying to remove something stuck in a drain, he pulls out bloody strings of sinew and muscle. To be honest, this scene was making my muscles tense!

7d_4The week goes on and Allen goes more against his beliefs that he was verbalizing, focusing heavily on his drug use (to which he claimed he didn’t do), often smoking either heroin or crack (crystal meth maybe? I don’t know drugs). Usually, he partakes in this with his neighbor Bill, who clearly is an upstanding individual and in no way a creepy pervert. I’m sure you detected a high amount of sarcasm there and you would be right. It’s insinuated or hinted (or Bill flat out says it, but tries to play it off as a joke) that he is a pedophile. So if you think having one character that was despicable, here’s another. But that’s sort of the appealing part of 7th Day. Virtually every character in the film is in their own way very grotesque and we end up siding with one of them, particularly Allen. Of course we aren’t supposed to, but that what happens when you give a character some depth and go on a journey with them. Although I would recommend a shower and some church immediately afterwards.

Unlike Rob Zombie’s Halloween, writer Mark Leake and director Jason Koch show you in a visceral and darkly disturbing way, what goes into to making a serial killer with no remorse. It’s a path you don’t want to go down, but they make it interesting and entertaining in a very curious way, allowing us to live vicariously through Allen. The crew brings this morbid visual to life in a way that will make even the strongest of stomachs turn. Even though Jason Kock himself has done special effects on films like Troma’s Return to Nuke’m High and Science Team (which oddly enough, he made a mold of my friend’s head), the credit on this one goes to Kaleigh Brown, who does a marvelous job.

7th Day
Given the trend with filmmakers confusing blood and violence for actual horror and the director’s association with Troma, the film could have easily been a gross out movie, but instead it took a far more sophisticated route and illustrated for us the mind of a truly tormented and lost mind. Let Allen be your Willy Wonka of murder and check this movie out.

Check out this review and plenty others at Goon Reviews.

roadside attractions

  • Robin Williams’ suspenders cameo.
  • Mustache rides… of death!
  • Serial killer spooning.
  • Can’t drop the mic, ’cause it’s melted into my hand.
  • MC Pee Pants.
  • Not what I had in mind when he was fingering…
totals

9

blood

BLOOD

The effects are pretty nasty that will spoil your appetite and that weird reporter thing is cool!

6

blood

BREASTS

Blood covered boobs is like chocolate covered strawberries.

8

beast

BEASTS

Mark S. Sander brings the sociopathic Allen to life and it is frigthening!

7.6 OVERALL
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Nov

Comments Off on Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
1986 – X – Arrow Video

Texas Chainsaw Massacre really the set the bar with horror back in 1974. It goes without saying that it is one of the greatest horror films of all time, so when Cannon Films acquired the rights to the franchise in the 80’s, a sequel was inevitable. Giving the original creator Tobe Hooper full creative control, it must have been a lot of pressure. How can a sequel live up to all this hype and deliver the same level of atrocity and macabre as depicted in the original? Tobe Hooper simply found the answer in not following the same formula as the first. Instead he took the film in a different direction, focusing more on gore and comedy, making it completely a slapstick for the criminally insane. Certainly an audacious and risky move, but would it actually work?

tcm2_2And he does this right from the start. Immediately following a text scrolling narrative echoing the events of the first film, it’s thirteen years later as two cackling college jug heads on their way to Dallas are popping shots at signs with a revolver from a car and calling K-OKLA radio station, badgering the leggy DJ appropriately nicknamed Stretch (Caroline Williams, meow!). Since these douchebags are refusing to hang up, Stretch has to keep them on the line and on the air (did radio stations actually use this lamebrain phone system?) as a large pickup truck, proud of its state’s stereotype by displaying some buck antlers and a confederate flag, chases them on what seems like the world’s longest bridge, until a familiar chainsaw wielding, masked maniac saws the top off one guy’s head and consequently crashing the car. Apparently city folk aren’t welcome ’round these parts.

Time to call in the cavalry! Former Texas Ranger (looking at it now, I’m not sure if they mean baseball player or an actual Texas Ranger) “Lefty” Enright, played by a manic Dennis Hopper, is at the scene of the crime. Although he’s ridiculed by his peers, Lefty knows exactly who did this… the same scumbags that tormented his niece and nephew, Sally and Franklin Hardesty. And no, this isn’t a string of typos. In a Soap Opera type of twist, Lefty is the uncle to the protagonists of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and he’s been hunting down the Sawyer clan ever since. Desperate, and most likely lonely, Lefty prints a want ad regarding any information on this brutal slaying (and for that special someone). Stretch brings him a tape with the slaying recorded on to it to which he shortly requests her to play it on the radio, which I’m sure the FCC will have no problems with. Still, it’s better than anything that Lady Gaga dude puts out.

tcm2_3But first, a little comical scene of Dennis Hopper arriving at a workshop, throwing phat stacks of cash on the table, like he just won some games of dice (these two things are funny to visualize in slow-motion along with any rap song), arming up with several chainsaws of varying size and madly hacking a log up outside, testing the chainsaws. He does this entire scene without a single line of dialogue, deadpan face, as the owner of the shop laughs to himself like he’s a mad scientist. This scene is the horror movie equivalent to Willem Defoe’s death scene in Platoon. It’s that over the top, but it’s that damn good.

Well, who else should hear this new hit but a welcoming and familiar face, Drayton Sawyer (for those of you who may not know the name, he ran the gas station in the first film), who just won a local chili cook-off contest! Turns out the Sawyer’s have been running a traveling food truck business since the first movie and I have to say, this is a very clever idea. After a probable manhunt took place following the events of the first film, a ‘meals on wheels’ service would allow these killers to move freely without getting caught and disposing of bodies. It’s genius (and I’m sure copyrighted… shucks). Hysterically cursing at the wheel, he turns it around to send the boys on a little search and destroy mission.

tcm2_4Nobody does search and destroy missions quite like the Vietnam veteran hippie with an exposed metal plate in his head, Chop Top, who it turns out is the twin brother of the Hitchhiker character in the first film… another soap opera twist, played amazingly by the characteristic Bill Moseley (and most likely one of his best roles). Seriously, this guy is all over the place. One minute he’s making a joke about one thing, then another, then he goes into a psychotic rage. He truly defines a psychopath. Chop Top arrives at the radio station shortly after LG, who does… something at K-OKLA, leaves for some grub, he asks Stretch to play the “special Lefty request”. Suddenly out of the darkness, the man in the mask, Leatherface bursts out with his chainsaw, waving it ferociously into the air, dinging Chop Top’s exposed metal plate (oh, that’s why they call him that!). With Stretch having locked herself in a room, LG returns to find Chop Top digging through old records, all while spouting some of the best one-liners ever. Chop Top belts his head continuously with a hammer, while Leatherface is falling in love… yeah, it’s strange to see and even more strange to describe. You see, since Stretch isn’t showing him fear, he falls for her and begins thrusting with his chainsaw, making for one of the most sexually awkward scenes ever. It’s so awkward, high schools should show them for abstinence videos. Leaving her to live (unbeknownst to Chop Top), the two bail with LG’s body.

Stretch follows them to an abandoned amusement park, rather fitting given the tenants. She falls into a trap, placing her inside the Christmas colored, bone scattered death trap just in time for Lefty to arrive, fully loaded with chainsaws and spewing the word of god, which is a bit cliche. Both Stretch and Lefty are left to their own devices if they want to get out alive. Stretch uses her charm on the wits of Leatherface (who even puts the skin of a face over hers) to try and escape and Lefty… well, he just starts tearing this place to shreds, howling like hobo on a meth bender with nothing to lose, “BRING IT DOWN! BRING IT ALL DOWN!” He finds Stretch, reminiscent of the dinner scene from the first Texas Chainsaw Massacre, with the Sawyer family, as he claims to be The Lord of the Harvest (not to be confused with The Lord of the Flies). And then, in a more battle more epic than Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader’s final duel, Lefty has it out with Leatherface, chainsaw to chainsaw! Madness on an unmeasurable scale unfolds from here.

tcm2_6Believe it or not, but this film initially received an X rating. The filmmakers decided to release it as Unrated so it would be allowed to play in more theaters. Even during its home video release, it still was Unrated. It wasn’t until the lousy, bare (no extras!) release in 2000 by MGM it was finally given an R rating. But we’re not talking about the MGM releases. We’re talking about this crisp, clean transfer from Arrow Video (with a few noticeable scenes of noise, but it’s not too bad), which looks amazing on a big screen in Blu. For you surround sound fans… sorry, they stuck with stereo for this release, but that’s how we like it.

And how about those extras? Arrow filled this release with so many extras, you’ll be stuffed. A good portion is carried over from the MGM “Gruesome Edition”, but that didn’t stop Arrow from adding plenty more, one of the coolest being Tobe Hooper’s previously unreleased short, The Heisters and another film Eggshells. On top of that are a few retrospectives on Mr. Hooper and possibly the most amusing feature on here, a fifteen or so minute rant from the man who played Leatherface, but it’s followed by about a half hour rebuttal by Stephen Thrower. Slap that in a sweet package with some astounding artwork and a hundred page book and there are enough extras on here to make this release thick and meaty. After all, it’s all about the meat… don’t skip on the meat.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
If you want to see Dennis Hopper screaming at the top of his lungs while waving chainsaws wildly in the air and going bats#*t crazy, then this is the movie for you. Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 would literally be like looking into the mind of a madman. This is one of the most outrageous and insane films out there and still somehow remains comprehensible. I’m not sure it’s even possible to compare this to its original counterpart since they really aren’t in the same league. Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is a parody of the original, making a goofball, splatstick comedy out of a serious toned serial killer movie, but that is in no way a bad thing. All the characters are completely ridiculous and over the top, but they are playing along with the hyper-violent, daffy tone of the movie (especially Bill Moseley’s Chop Top) that it all somehow makes sense and dammit all, if it’s not entertaining in a psychotically hypnotizing way. It like being on a hallucinogenic and seeing all the ravings of a lunatic come to life, with the colors to make it really ‘pop’. The buzz isn’t back… it never went away.

Check out this review and plenty others at Goon Reviews.

roadside attractions

  • Splitting headache.
  • Dennis Hopper… acting or actually that crazy?
  • Incoming mail!
  • Leatherface in love.
  • The Last Round Up, makers of the meatiest chilli!
  • Nam Land!
  • Saw vs. saw!
  • Crazy Caroline Williams Dance.
totals

9

blood

BLOOD

We start with some punk getting half of his head sawed off, then another person pelted in the head repeatedly with a hammer, throw some guts in here for the perfect gore-met!

6

blood

BREASTS

One scene in particular, where Caroline Williams has soda and ice sprayed all over her legs and chest will have the young ones getting funny feelings for the first time.

10

beast

BEASTS

The psychopathic Chop Top and Leatherface square off with Dennis Hopper, armed head to toe in chainsaws. This is what Michelangelo would have painted in the Sistine Chapel had he seen this movie.

8.3 OVERALL
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Nov

posted by admin | November 9, 2013 | Action, B-movie Reviews, B-movies, New Releases, Reviews by the Goon, screeners

Comments Off on Deadliest Prey

Deadly Prey
2013 – Not Rated – David A. Prior

Is it ever too late for a sequel? Robert Rodriguez is finally making Sin City 2 after a decade and it seems like the interest just isn’t there from the masses, which is one reason why sequels are usually made within three years. But that never seems to be the case with the Cult and B-Movie genre. You can make a sequel many years later and we would all wet our pants to watch our favorite cast climb casually back into their old roles. I guarantee you if another Evil Dead were actually ever made, EVERYONE would be eager to see it, even if it was Ash taking a crap for ninety minutes.

There is also some concern from an audience when viewing a sequel that took a long period to be released. Films like this have often suffer from production and financing issues or the filmmakers themselves get caught up in trying to make it “hip and cool” for the new generation, attempting to speak to youth by loading up on unnecessary CGI effects and tossing around some of that youngster lingo, but it comes across as your guidance counselor trying to “rap” with you. Does Deadliest Prey fall, urm… prey to this trap? Since this is a review, odds are we are going to find out.

dp_2Nearly thirty years after the events of Deadly Prey, Hogan is released from incarceration and immediately is picked up by his hot minx, Sophia. I have no idea how these two met seeing as she was most likely born when he went to prison. Hogan immediately declares revenge on the man who was responsible for his jailing, Mike Danton. Hogan puts forth his plan, but what has our hero Danton been doing all these years? He’s been raising a family, mowing the lawn… you know, regular action hero stuff. But when he sets out on his most dangerous mission, taking out the garbage, he is kidnapped and wakes to find himself in a familiar situation. He’s stranded alone and weaponless in some unknown woods… and he hasn’t even had breakfast. I do have to give credit where credit is due; Ted Prior is pretty cut and looks pretty buff, even in pajama pants.

Once again, it’s a game of survival, much like Hard Target for those of you who may be unfamiliar. What’s different this time around is that Hogan is broadcasting the carnage filled extravaganza all over that new interwebs thing, being funded by ‘Internet Company’. Okay, so technically it’s not a new idea. Plenty of other films have done it or something similar. Hell, when the Halloween series did something similar years ago. It felt tired then, but given all the advancements in technology and the way we utilize the internet and social networking, maybe there is a fresh new spin on this? Eh, no. The idea is merely touched, mostly feeling like a vehicle to bring the film into the new century to make it ‘updated’.

However, this isn’t the point of the film. We’re getting to that as soldiers rush out at Danton, who straight up murders all the thugs without remorse. Not even the whimpering soldier who surrenders and only took the job because he needed the money. Danton doesn’t even flinch at extinguishing his existence and coldly saying, “You should’ve filed for unemployment.” Don’t worry, there are plenty more terrible, macho catch phrases.

dp_3Time to pause on the action and focus on another thing you’ve seen plenty of times before, Hackers! Hackers that mash the keyboard, call each other “bro” and hang out with a nerdy, but really cute chick that they try to give a catch phrase to. Throughout this scene, she keeps saying “True dat!” Like they had thousands of “True dat!” shirts printed and they needed to sell them, so they figured they could make it a household catch phrase again. These “hackers” stumble across the live stream of Hogan’s little game and recognize Danton from stories they’ve heard. Using their magical computer wizardry skills, they bypass all security nodes, access the modules, hack into the mainframe, triangulate the coordinates (you know, hacker stuff!) and find Danton’s approximate position, they set out on a road trip to save him. I’ll let that sink in.

Then in true 80’s action movie fashion, Hogan hires Lt. Thornton’s (from Deadly Prey) twin bother… Thornton! He’s even more buff than his brother, as he demonstrates by killing a merc with a single punch to the face. The way this dude presents himself with dark aviators, a sleeveless vest and leather gloves, you definitely buy it. Hogan and Thornton decide to let Danton have a little more fun, as he dispatches of more mercs, complete with one-liners so cheesy even Arnold would be embarrassed. In fact, let me show you the formula of dialogue between Danton and the mercs:

Bad Guy – “Dimwitted, but somewhat clever threat.”
Danton – “Witty retort.”
Bad Guy- “Snarky comeback!”
Danton kills bad guys.
Danton – “Macho catchphrase.”

dp_4And just about every conversation is composed like this. But it’s not like we’re reading Shakespeare here… or whatever that saying is. So where were we? Oh yeah, those hackers literally run into Dalton with their hatchback, escaping with him as the cute girl keeps saying, “Hi” to him, like it’s her other catch phrase. So they have an over abundance of “Hi” and “True dat!” shirts. Thornton finds them and pops a couple shots at them. They react and talk like a bullet just missed them, yet there are no bullet holes anywhere on the car or windshield (or maybe Thornton isn’t as good of a shot as he thought). Geez, so much inconsistency and error with this film, I don’t know if I can trust it!* Either way, once a bunch of dweebs rescue you in a hatchback, you sort of lose all credibility as a tough guy.**

*Editor’s note: I’m totally kidding.
**Editor’s note: Still kidding… please don’t hurt me.

The hackers take Danton home to find Sophia, who tells him his family has been kidnapped. Danton responds with a strong, but controlled pimp slap and then put several bullets in to her brains. Now he is freed up to unlock his tool shed of mass destruction and gear up with quick zooms and sound effects! Although I am a little concerned that this entire time his tool shed was only secured by a cheap padlock. Enough lessons on safety, it’s time to pose for the movie poster and it is glorious! It’s the body count part of the movie as Danton mows down scumbag after scumbag, trapping them in time-consuming-that-he-wouldn’t-have-really-had-time-for and mostly improbable traps, barely ever getting a scratch on him until he reaches Hogan or dies trying!

Even though I gave this movie a hard time, I thoroughly enjoyed it! I wouldn’t say it was as good as Deadly Prey and giving the time that has passed and the tight budget they had, Deadliest Prey is a worthy sequel, if not for the cheesy one-liners alone. However, it’s not to say it doesn’t have its faults either. Like I stated in the review, you’ve seen this plot done a million times before and it’s still just as stale as it ever was. Also since they are using the same exposition as the first film (even the same villains and hero) it feels like nothing new is being brought to the table. The hacker characters only seem to serve the purpose of getting Danton to his home so he can load up and kick some butt and at times, the audio seems to be balanced unevenly.

Deadly Prey
What I do find interesting about how I feel about this movie is throughout the film, there is the presence of a ‘home movie’ feel to it. Whether it be the look of the film or the overall tone, but this could have worked in the 80’s as shot on video. But where this movie really shines, is the nostalgia for over the top 80’s action films it gives you. The violence varies from stiff choreographed martial arts, but gunshots as well. Whether it’s to the body or the head, people will take dozens of shots to that specific area. Modern technology aside, Deadly Prey feels like it was made in the 80’s shortly after the original. It may not go down with cult status like the first film, but it’s still a riot. It makes Demolition Man look like Judge Dredd. It makes Phantom Raiders look like… well, Phantom Raiders. I would definitely check this out for an explosive good time!

Check out this review and plenty others at Goon Reviews.

roadside attractions

  • Action Family Man.
  • Internet revenge.
  • Ridiculous one-liners.
  • Black gloves, black shades.
  • Hacker babe.
  • Loading up on weapons montage!
  • Give the man a hand… or an arm!
  • You’re only ‘half’ the man you used to be.
totals

7

blood

BLOOD

Hundreds of bullet wounds, a severed arm and a man cut in half. All in a days work.

2

blood

BREASTS

Sophia shows off her cleavage, as well as Thornton.

6

beast

BEASTS

Hogan is an angry man filled with revenge and Thornton is silent, but deadly.

5 OVERALL
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trailers

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Oct

Comments Off on Maniac

Maniac
1980 – Unrated – Blue Underground

If there is one thing that the 80’s did for us (besides give us cocaine and Alf), it was install a paranoia in us through movies. Horror movies were evolving, becoming more horrifying and grotesquely more realistic. We were looking over our shoulders constantly and assuming any sound in the middle of the night was a murderer that broke into our homes. These movies also outraged sensitive cinema goers, claiming this type of movie breeds wackos. One such film would be simply be called Maniac and with a title like that, you should know what you’re walking into. Yet for audiences back then, they were disturbed by what they saw. Could it have really been that sadistic?

When the special effects are done by Tom Savini, the man who did Dawn of the Dead and was fresh off the gruesomely reviewed Friday the 13th, combine that with William Lustig, a guy whose earlier works were porn, you should know what you are walking in to. Actor Joe Spinell brought such a twisted and yet realistic spin on the psychotic main character Frank Zito, that you would think with this flick, the premise was so alarming and the effects were disturbingly visceral, that anybody watching the film didn’t think a murder could be depicted with such ferocity and carnage and shame on them for being so naive. The combination of these three men bring this film to deranged new levels and showcase a level of mayhem to be unmatched. It angered feminists, critics hated it, so let’s degrade ourselves and plunge into the filthy world of a psychopath!

maniac_2As a couple snuggles up on the beach, a prowler watches from one of those… binocular things… I forget what they are called, but you use to find them in large cities and you put a quarter in them and you can see the city. Anyway, after rolling around on each other like pale leather bags in a mildewy blanket, the man leaves to gather firewood… on the beach. It doesn’t take long for him to be garroted by the prowler, who then sneaks up on the sleeping girlfriend and slices her neck. Her screams fade into overweight, sweaty killer known as Frank, as he shoots up out of bed in a cold sweat, screaming like a lunatic and crying and judging how the interior of this small apartment is decorated, I’d wake up screaming and crying every day too.

Later that evening, two prostitutes (one of which is very eager for that one last trick to pay rent, son) see Frank, who is probably the shadiest looking person in an already shady area, takes one of the streetwalkers upstairs where he has her model like in them fancy magazines. Within moments, he charms the lady of the night by showing the size of his… money clip and starts making out with her pretty intensely, rolling on top of her and for that, believe me, I think she earned that cash. Have you ever put a warm, doughy dinner roll on top of a green bean? Well anyway, Frank starts to become frustrated and chokes this hooker to death and crying immediately afterwards. I’ve heard of crymaxing, but killmaxing? Is that a thing? As he mutters to her, “Why did you make me do it?” he scalps her using a box cutter, which I have to say, watching this will make you flinch in pain. That’s your grotesque Savini special effects at work for you there.

So what exactly is Frank doing with these scalps? If he were Apache, they would be trophies of some sort, but we actually aren’t too far off. Frank nails the scalps to the heads of mannequins that he’s dressed in the clothes of his recent victim, thus in his mind, honoring the person and allowing them to live on forever. It seems Frank feels what seems to be a motherly attachment to them, talking to them and scolding them, which makes sense seeing as it’s often hinted throughout the film that he had mother issues.

maniac_4Leaving his apartment once again with a disassembled 12 gauge shotgun in a trumpet case, he follows a couple out of a disco (yeah, those existed at one point) to what kids would call ‘make-out point.’ The stud in this scene, by the way, is played by Tom Savini, who is desperately trying to get ‘some’. The floozy is resistant at first, but who can resist a mustache as powerful as that? Tom Savini’s mustache has rivaled other great ‘staches in history, like Tom Selleck’s. After some serious necking in the backseat, the woman sees Frank peeping through the window like a little kid at the zoo and talks Savini into leaving. Flicking on the headlights, they see Frank standing in the night. He pounces on the windshield, armed with his shotgun and blows Tom Savini’s head off. And I meant right the freak off, spraying gallons of blood and whatever foods happened to be on the Kraft services table that evening. This scene is so graphic, it could give the head explosion scene from Scanners a run for its money.

After proving to those two that disco is dead, Frank cries himself to sleep after a healthy internal monologue about “stopping the fancy women” and handcuffing himself to a mannequin. He wakes up for a midday stroll through the park, where a photographer, Anna (played by ex-Bond girl Caroline Munroe), snaps a shot of him. Frank notices and casually strolls up to her belongings, snagging her address and goes about his day (cue non-conspicuous whistling).

Since they had to bore you with that scene of exposition, they throw you a bone and kill another woman. This time, a young nurse decides to reject a ride home from a friend and tread home solo in the middle of the night, while reading a newspaper with the headline, “MANIAC KILLS TWO MORE!” She soon notices she is being stalked and tries running through the subway station, hiding in a bathroom. This scene is heavily borrowed in other movies, including Alexander Aja’s High Tension (he would later go on to produce the remake of Maniac!) and it’s probably due to not only its pacing, but the idea of a stranger tracking you through a vacant space and having to hide with no escape. After a few moments, she believes the killer has fled, losing interest and as she washes her face in the sink, Frank stabs her through the back with a bayonet.

maniac_5Eventually the filmmakers realize that even a movie called Maniac can’t be composed completely of scenes that depict brutal murders of women, so Frank pays a visit to Anna, but in a very friendly and possibly romantic manner. Dressed nicely, he invites her to dinner to which she accepts and believe it or not, but the two seem to be hitting it off and it comes across as very authentic. Wanting to see him again, Anna invites Frank to one of her photo shoots, where Frank humbly arrives and everything seems innocent enough, until he meets Rita. Frank steals a necklace of hers and leaves the set, only to pay a visit to Rita’s home late a night with the necklace, posing as just a friend returning it. But would a friend kidnap you and tie you up? Maybe, but certainly not in a hostile, psychotic manner. With Rita kidnapped, Frank paces and spouts off about being abused and being left all alone, which implies he is most likely talking about his mother. Frank tells her that she will never leave him again, as he plunges a switchblade right into her chest and adding her scalp to a growing collection of mannequins.

Well this is becoming downright depressing! Maybe a visit from Anna will perk him right up. Frank picks her up to take her to a show, but a quick detour at his mother’s grave in the cemetery before hand. No sign of this night going sour, especially as the sky turns black and the fog rolls in. At the grave, Frank begins to blubber like a baby and as Anna tries to console him, he tries to choke her. I’m sure he likes to think of it as ‘hugging her neck’, but Anna fights him off and even slices his arm open with a shovel. Wounded, Frank chases after Anna, but slows down and seems to become lost… especially mentally as he hears his mother’s voice calling out for him, bringing him to his knees. And then like true Savini fashion, the rotten corpse of his mother bursts from the ground and terrorizes him! If he hasn’t lost his mind already, he certainly is now. Back at his home after fleeing the cemetery, he cries to himself as he notices that the mannequins are slowly becoming alive and they are very unhappy.

Maniac is a film that makes you feel filthy and unclean for watching it, but that’s what I love about it. It’s a character study of a truly, deeply disturbed human being. You’re audience to his personal torment and are forced to watch his violent actions. But there is a sympathetic side, as he weeps and talks nonsense to himself, you can feel the misguidance he had growing up and can’t help but feel sorry for him. It’s at the moment you begin to question why you are on his side. He’s done such vile things, are you supposed to feel that way? But that’s another thing that makes this movie great; you root for the bad guy without even knowing it.

Maniac
With an anathema you love to hate or hate to love, a dark and seedy look into his sick, perplexed world, overflowing with gore and other gross stuff, it’s enough to make you question your own sanity. At the dawn of the slasher flick era, Maniac stood above them as the indisputable champ of shocking horror, visually and methodically. It is perhaps the darkest serial killer pic since Psycho and would pave way for others, such as Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. If there is anything positive to take away from the film, it’s that Frank was able to score a babe like Anna. So that means maybe there is hope for some of us.

Check out this review and plenty others at Goon Reviews.

roadside attractions

  • Sleeping and peeping.
  • Nightmare apartment.
  • Is Frank Zito gonna have to choke a broad?
  • Scalping sicko.
  • Sweaty and crying… or hungry?
  • Buck shot cranium massage!
  • Bond babe!
  • Zombie mom issues.
  • Torn to pieces!
totals

9

blood

BLOOD

The scalping looked good for the time, but the shotgun scene will make your head explode…

7

blood

BREASTS

Bubble bath included.

10

beast

BEASTS

Joe Spinell doesn’t play Frank Zito… he seemingly IS Frank Zito and it’s downright terrifying.

8.6 OVERALL
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News report on the controversy it caused.

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Watch the trailer of “Maniac!”

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Maniac
2012 – Not Rated – IFC Midnight

Remakes are a very fickle subject. Films that are often being remade, are those that are regarded as high ‘cult’ status and have a large and not to mention intense fan base. So, it goes without saying that when rumors were rumbling that William Lustig’s serial killer masterpiece Maniac was being fitted for a remake, it would be critically disapproved before it was even made. This disapproval seemed to settle into gentle curiosity when High Tension director Alexander Aja was attached and shortly after the casting of Elijah Wood in the role of Frank Zito, not only were we curious, but they had our attention as well. Sure enough, we were watching the production of this film under a microscope and growing more interested with every shred of news.

It’s also tricky reviewing a remake. It will, of course, be compared to the original, which in most cases, is far superior (if not only for nostalgic reasons). But you have to remember to look at it as its own entity and judge it based on its own merit. After all, do you really want to see the same thing rehashed exactly the same way (remember the Psycho remake)? Like I said, it’s very challenging to remake and modernize a horror film, so how does Franck Khalfoun’s rendition of the classic hold up?

It starts off similar enough, with Frank stalking his prey. Only this time a young woman decides to walk home from a night club all by herself, unaware that Frank is watching her (as we watch from his POV) from his truck. After one of the best opening music soundtracks in this generation, Frank meets her at her apartment, unbeknownst to her though. He cuts the power, darkening the corridor and walks behind her, breathing heavily until she is about to enter her apartment. Hesitant to turn around, he tells her, “Please don’t scream,” and before she can, he plunges a giant Bowie knife under her chin. Gently he caresses her face and removes the knife to scalp her and then in big, bold, confident and alarming red letters as big as the screen, the title MANIAC appears before fading to black. Right out of the gates, the movie doesn’t hold back any punches and doesn’t shy away from disturbing you.

maniac_2As Frank wakes up and goes about his daily routine, makes coffee, hallucinates that a girl is in his bed (you know, the usual stuff), you may be noticing that it hasn’t switched out of his POV and that is what not only separates this remake from the original, but from pretty much every other film out there. Keeping in theme with the original, Frank staples the scalp to a mannequin while talking with it. So just in case you weren’t sure he was a few cans short of a six pack, this should tip you off. Continuing, we get a look into how this movie is ‘modernized’ as Frank stalks and sets up potential kills via dating websites. It actually makes good sense and clearly illustrates every single person’s worst fear, but now it’s going to make it harder for me to score a date… especially when we watch this!

A quick online dating success later, he meets up with a cute little trollop named Lucy. It’s during this dinner that we get a look into Frank’s psyche, as the radial blur filters the screen, he sees everyone in the restaurant staring at him and blood trickles down Lucy’s face. It’s never explained exactly what this condition is, though he calls them migraines. They seem to quickly reside after he pops a few pills. Unfortunately, they effects don’t last long. Lucy invites him over for a drink and he insists that he needs to leave, but nervous guys that she can domineer are her thing. She dances around her apartment to ‘Goodbye Horses’, made popular in Silence of the Lambs and forever stapling it to all things creepy. Overcome with homicidal tendencies, he strangles her and scalps her, thus acquiring a new girlfriend (in his mind), after he staples the scalp on a mannequin, of course.

It’s interesting to note that this kill is somewhat different from the others in the film, in that he is hesitant to kill her and almost seemingly resists. He even throws up afterwards and weeps, possibly indicating that he was beginning to like Lucy and did not want to kill her. It adds a whole new dimension to the character and not just a showing the typical ‘kill the women mindlessly’ slasher trend. But now I’m getting off track.

maniac_3This is when we are introduced to the lovely Anna, who will become the love interest of sorts to Frank. She wakes him the next morning by taking photos of his mannequins outside his shop window. Feeling a desirable, artistic connection, he invites her inside to look at his work. When he isn’t doing the Apache scalp to women, Frank restores antique mannequins out of a shop he inherited from his mother, who recently died. The two bond and create a friendship, perhaps with an unspoken romance and you can really see it in their eyes. More specifically her eyes, as the actress, Nora Arnezeder, has to stare into the camera as if she is looking deeply and affectionately into Frank’s eyes and she does this convincingly well. You’ll fall in love with her as she looks past the camera and into your eyes, piercing your soul. But how long can Frank subdue his murderous impulses?

As the two spend more time together, it’s noticeable (to the audience) that Frank is falling for Anna. It’s actually quite charming to see him become smitten by her. Maybe it’s the way she looks at us, the audience, that we are falling in love with her! The very mention that she has a boyfriend gives him a “migraine” like before with Lucy. He goes out of his way to take non prescription pharmaceuticals to control these sinister urges, but unfortunately like all classic monster movies, the beast has to come out. He follows a girl home from a dance studio, chases her through a subway and into a parking lot where perhaps the most daunting and brutal murder of the film takes place, as hides under a car, slicing her Achilles tendon as she walks by and stabbing her repeatedly in the back until finally scalping her and posing by a car, so that his reflection resembles the original movie poster. It’s actually a clever nod, seeing as how we don’t get the infamous bathroom or shotgun scenes.

Having borrowed some of Frank’s mannequins for an art show, Anna invites him to said show where everyone seems to be judgmental of the two, but they are lost in each other’s creativity, as Frank and Anna speak, you really get a sense of the tragedy that they most likely will not end up together. At this point, it’s really debatable if this is a love story or not. You want nothing more than for her to save him from all his troubles. You want Frank to tell Anna that he loves her and maybe that’s the true horror of this film and not the murders; that Frank and Anna will never be together. And as if seeing Anna with her beau wasn’t enough to crush his spirits, he’s ridiculed by him for potentially being a closet homosexual (jocks at an art show… this IS fiction) and then by Anna’s manager. Frank follows her home and in a rather disturbing scene, Frank watches her bathe for a moment, just before dunking her head underwater. He then begins yelling at her as if he were yelling at his mother for the terrible things she did and then scalping her. It’s in this scene where you think maybe Frank doesn’t believe that he is killing anyone, but helping them to live on forever.

maniac_4After receiving the news that her manager is dead, Anna calls up Frank who is more than happy to console her. However, Frank lets a few things slip as you watch Anna’s facial expressions change from sad, to quizzical, to horrified as she realizes Frank is a killer. Realizing she is in terrible danger, she now fights off the psychotic Frank, who tells her he wants nothing more than to help her and take her away, all leading to a very dark, but unfortunately for Frank, fitting end.

In a word, Maniac is intense. Although it contains the same elements and ideas of the original, it feels like a completely different beast. But that’s how a remake should feel. For starters, the entire movie is shot from Frank’s POV, with a few exceptions where the camera will come out from his eyes and we see him committing horrendous acts of violence, which is incredibly effective as you see the murder through the killer’s eyes, then transition to be an audience to it. Frank himself is quite different, being an unassuming, charming young man rather than the chubby, greasy (no offense) counterpart and Elijah Wood plays this role eerily convincing. It’s seriously my favorite portrayal of a character in a long time. Elijah Wood ‘kills’ it! We also go into his childhood quite a bit and examine his mother issues, which there aren’t that many. So it feels like the film could do without these scenes and still work, but the way they are shown is pretty traumatizing. Especially when you see little Frank’s mother getting gang banged as he watches from the closet… and she knows he’s in there. Ah, brings back memories.

As I said before, the entire cinematography is from the point of view of Frank. We are looking through his eyes, which you would think could get nauseating or even be distracting, but the shots are smooth and don’t bob around so much like it would with a free hand found footage type of movie. This also makes viewing it ghastly, like you are a part of this macabre destruction and gore. Speaking of gore, Maniac may not contain the famous head explosion like the original, but it has more than enough repulsive violence and bloodshed to go around! A majority of the effects are practical (or a combination of composite shots) and seeing Frank use his buck knife or straight razor to remove his victims scalps, then slowly pull them off may require you to prepare barf bags before viewing. And to further shake your core, the score by Rob is a simple one, reminiscent of John Carpenter, with an easy synth beat and heavy stings, but always fitting the mood of the movie.

Maniac
While it does take the idea of the original and stays true to the classic, it does take its own path while it tells its own story. I guess you could call it an ‘updated version’ (and by that I don’t mean they use computers and cell phones… although they do). Maniac is most definitely a modern day horror film that will eventually become a classic on its own merit, rather than lurking in the shadow of William Lustig’s original 1980 shocker. In fact, this may very well spawn clones of POV serial killer movies, which will soon become annoying, just like all found footage and possession movies. Check out Maniac, alone or on a date… but not with anyone you met on a dating website.

Check out this review and plenty others at Goon Reviews.

roadside attractions

  • Frank the Apache.
  • Mannequin makeover.
  • Goodbye horses… goodbye, Lucy!
  • Strangers on a subway.
  • Maniac Migraine.
  • If you have a mommy issue, reach for a tissue.
  • Grand Theft Anna.
  • Frank spills his guts.
totals

9

blood

BLOOD

Blood and guts galore with plenty of scalping.

8

blood

BREASTS

All kinds and all sizes for the kiddies!

10

beast

BEASTS

Although a bit more sympathetic, Elijah Wood ‘kills’ it as Frank. He pulls off totally unassuming and totally bonkers.

9 OVERALL
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