Maniac (1980)

DVD Cover (Blue Underground)
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Overall Rating 67%
Overall Rating
Ranked #3,684
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Connections: Maniac

A psychotic man, troubled by his childhood abuse, loose in New York City, kills young women and takes their scalps as his trophies. Will he find the perfect woman in a photographer, and end his killing spree? --IMDb
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Review by Chad
Added: March 13, 2006
Joe Spinell stars as the deranged Frank Zito in this extremely gory slasher flick, a film which is so gruesome that Gene Siskel was forced to leave the theater after watching the first thirty minutes of it. Now, the film is pretty brutal, don't get me wrong; however, it wasn't that bad, but I'll get to that in a moment. Frank, as I mentioned, is a pretty deranged fellow. After suffering through years of abuse from his mother who eventually died in an automobile accident, Frank is left with nothing more than his mother's voice in his head which commands him to kill. Never one to ignore his mother, Frank goes out every night in search of female prey, and he sees a little bit of his mother in each woman that he encounters. As it turns out, Frank has some abandonment issues due to his mother's untimely death, and he feels that these women are going to leave him just like mother dearest did. Since he can't lock them up in his tiny apartment, he does the next best thing... he takes a small part of them (their scalp) and nails these grisly trophies to mannequins which he keeps in his apartment and talks to. Things pick up at around the three-quarters mark when he falls in love with a photographer named Anna D'Antoni (Caroline Munro), but the majority of the film is basically akin to hanging out with a serial killer and watching both his body count grow and his gradual breakdown.

I've read a few reviews of this title online, and in each one, the focal point was the gore. "The movie is gruesome", "the movie is over-the-top in its depiction of violence" and "this is a disgusting film" are but a few of the paraphrased things that I've read, but none of these reviews say much about the storyline. Now, this film is far from The Silence of the Lambs, and it's also pretty far from Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer in terms of the storyline. However, this is also far from the typical slasher film that everyone seems to make it out to be. The storyline does a pretty damned good job of putting you inside the mind of a serial killer and showing you his motivations for dismembering these pretty young ladies (who were mostly played by porn stars), and while I'll once again say that this is far from the definitive serial killer film, there's much more to the plot than "here's an excuse to show another murder."

There's a bonus feature on the Anchor Bay release of this DVD called "Gallery of Outrage" which is chock-full of quotes from various film critics such as the aforementioned Gene Siskel. These quotes share the theme of being completely disgusted by this film because of both the realism and the amount of gore on display. Tom Savini is the man responsible for this gore (and he also has a small cameo appearance), so it should go without saying that these quotes aren't totally unfounded. We get the pleasure of witnessing a woman being scalped, and we also get to find out what happens when someone takes a shotgun blast to the face at a distance of about two feet. There's a number of other surprises that I won't spoil here, and each murder is lovingly displayed for the camera in graphic detail; there's no cut-away shots to be found here, and every last death-twitch is shown to the audience. Those with weak stomachs would definitely be advised to look elsewhere for their horror fix, but I found that the near-universal claim of this being one of the most vile movies in existence to be slightly overrated. Yes, there's a lot of blood, and yes, it's quite realistic, but there's plenty of movies out there that would top this one in that department.

With that said, however, this is definitely one to pick up if you're a fan of the serial killer sub-genre or simply like to see young ladies being brutally torn apart. You get a pretty nice storyline coupled with some top-notch special effects, not to mention an award-winning performance from the late Joe Spinell. Throw in a few very tense scenes (the one in the public restroom was excellent), and really, horror fans couldn't ask for more. 8/10.
Christopher #1: Christopher - added October 7, 2006 at 4:47pm
Nearing the end of the film, there's a poster on his wall with a an upside down baby that's painted completely white. It says "Born Without A _____." The blank spot is written over its neck and I can't make out what it says for the life of me. Any chance you caught the poster and what it said?
Chad #2: Chad - added October 7, 2006 at 8:27pm
It said "Born without a mother." It's mentioned on the commentary and it's easier to read in another scene.
Tristan #3: Tristan - added March 4, 2007 at 5:46pm
Damn, good movie. It was a pricey item, but I'd wanted to see it for awhile, so I just had to do it. I wasn't disappointed, it was fantastic. Some very memorable and classic gore scenes, and it was very suspenseful the whole way through. 9/10.
Ginose #4: Ginose - added August 3, 2007 at 3:25am
Netflixed it and MAY OR MAY NOT have created a backed-up copy of it's .iso video/audio files onto a formated DVD-ROM... anyhow, this movie is a pricey disc if you want a copy, but worth atleast one viewing no matter what... several if you're a fan of the gore/slasher genre. Gotta love the shotgun... 8.5/10
Nirrad #5: Nirrad - added February 9, 2008 at 3:00pm
How can an actor go from Godfather - Taxi Driver - Rocky - then to this? Man talk about going downhill really fast with 1 movie. Sorry guys, but I didn't like this one at all. I don't even want to begin listing the reasons, hell I didn't even want to waste my time posting here. Please still love me....ha.
Tristan #6: Tristan - added February 10, 2008 at 1:28am
Well keeping with the order of those films, he was on a downward spiral anyway.
Crispy #7: Crispy - added July 27, 2012 at 4:16am
Great gore as mentioned, but the movie hit a few too many snags here and there throughout the running time for me to match the 8s and 9s that you guys are handing out. High 6, low 7 for me.
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