Director – William Lustig (Vigilante, Maniac Cop)
Starring – Joe Spinell (The Undertaker, Rocky II), Caroline Munro (Slaughter High, Don’t Open Till Christmas), and Abigail Clayton (SexWorld, Dixie)
Release Date – 1980
Rating – 3/5
Blu Release – 4.5/5
Tagline – “I warned you not to go out tonight”
Horror has seen it’s fair share of cult classics over the decades. Films ranging from the classic Nosferatu to Mandy find themselves at the center of hundreds of fans that proclaim it to be their favorite horror film. I can see why most of these films get the love that they do but there is a handful of flicks that I think are overrated. When I was in high school I befriended a guy who wanted to be the next special effects master. He became obsessed with Tom Savini and would watch anything he was attached to religiously.
One film he would often watch was the 1980 William Lustig film Maniac. I would often watch a few scenes with him here and there but it just never held my attention. Sometime ago Blue Underground announced the 4K restoration of the film and I was curious. I never gave this film a proper viewing so I reached out to them and got a review copy. Sadly, when my home caught fire this was one of the few movies that I lost. I quickly ordered another copy so I could review it. Thank you BU for sending this one my way!
**Spoiler Alert** The film follows Frank (Spinell) who is mentally unstable. He becomes violent when he finds an attractive woman and typically kills them before bringing trophies of his kill back home to hang on mannequins. While on the hunt he meets a gorgeous photographer and starts to fall for her but he is unable to control his murderous tendencies. He continues to murder but focuses on the models for the photographer until his love catches him and he is forced to show her the monster he really is.**Spoiler Alert**
I went into this one hoping I love it. When I disagree with a horror film that millions love I often find myself on the business end of hate filled emails (which are very comical). Not long ago I admitted I wasn’t a fan of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Hellraiser films but the sequels are some of my favorite. Maniac has a very dedicated fan base but it’s one of those films that I enjoyed but I won’t be getting tattooed on my body anytime soon. I can see where people enjoy it that much though.
The acting in this one is solid. Joe Spinell is a solid actor. I absolutely loved him in The Undertaker which I think is a superior film but he does a great job with this one. He is fantastic in these psychotic roles and its a damn shame he didn’t take more of these on before he passed. The supporting cast is great as well but lets be honest. This is a one man show and Spinell kills it.
The story for this one is a simple one that does borrow from several classics before it. We follow a man who was traumatized by a child and now kills beautiful women. This is similar to classics like Psycho but it does drag on for a bit. There is several scenes that are just a little too long that I would consider dull. It does take away from the overall feel and tone of the film. I also liked where the film was set. The city backdrop really works for this one and makes it stand out some over the other films that follow the same story.
Finally, this one has fantastic effects. We get that bright red 3M blood that always makes any film feel campier but the practical effects are great. I really enjoy the kills we get and they make the viewer forget about the slower moving scenes. Overall, Maniac is a classic 80s horror film. It may not be one of my favorites but it deserves its spot in horror history. Be sure to check out the amazing release from Blue Underground.
3 Disc Set (DVD, Bluray, CD)
Returning to the Scene of the Crime with William Lustig
Maniac 2 Promo Reel
The Joe Spinell Story