MANIAC (1980)


Directed By: William Lustig
Written By: Joe Spinell & C.A. Rosenberg
Story By: Joe Spinell
Cinematography: Robert Lindsay
Editor: Larry Marinelli
Special Make-up & Effects By: Tom Savini 

Cast: Joe Spinell, Caroline Munroe, Tom Savini, Kelly Piper, Rita Monotone, Sharon Mitchell, Frank Pesce 

Frank Zito misses his mother, who was killed in a car accident years before. She was abusive to him, and made money selling her body, but Frank still misses her. He tries to keep her from leaving him, and reform her evil ways, by killing young women and putting their scalps on mannequins which he displays around his apartment. Photographer Anna D’Antoni takes a picture of him in the park, and he pursues and befriends her. Is she the one he has been looking for or just another mother wannabe?

This is a slasher film that can be looked at in different ways. As a misogynistic film you get paints it’s female characters as evil to a degree. Indifferent if only because we really don;t get to know them as characters. Where as our protagonist, we spend most of our time with. So we get to know him personally and see what drives him and it paints him on a bit of a sympathetic light.

As the female victims seems to be his fuel. Yet are disposable. Even as he gets sick after and feels remorse. Yet is driven by a need to kill and scalp again and again adding to his collection.

The death scenes of paint a sympathetic light as they are graphic and shocking and have an added twist of sympathy and sadness for the victims before they are killed. Making them even more sad. As the films seems to have the attitude of the times. Leaving the victims to be sympathetic but not human and more like props. Though the film does explore their nature and his relationship to them more psychologically than most films of the time.

The fact that the character was more of a sociopath interesting as he could function with others in the real world, even be charming but also be totally delusional.

The special effects are old school and practical, yet top notch. You can tell a bit of it is fake, but still impressive. Especially the lover’s lane shotgun killings.

To be honest the film is quite repulsive, dingy and dirty. Luckily it’s short, as it isn’t a world you would want to linger in for too long. It’s classic 1970’s – 80’s gritty New York. But it just makes it feel more subhuman and toxic. Though places you in that world and time period.

I once was afraid to watch this film for a number of years. Looking at he artwork of the poster and box and thinking it would be one of the more extreme specimens of the genre.

I don’t know if my senses have filled or if I can take movie violence more these days, but this films wasn’t as bad or shocking as one would think it would be. Don’t get me wrong it’s grisly. Just not as bad as one thought it would be.

The best part of this film hand down is the ending. That’s not meant to be an insult or sleight. It’s just that the ending is quite spectacular. Though the last minute is quite far-fetched.

It’s a good stand alone film that if it offered a bit more insight and focused more on the victims a bit more rather than the killings or found a way to combine both. It could be a monumental film. Instead they of a noteworthy one.

Original grindhouse effects and old New York, Found it grimy and want to take a shower after misogynistic. Sleazy but a marker of it’s time, This one feels just as exploitive we are just used to it, but at least it has it’s own dirt and grime.

Not my cup of tea but built up my my tolerance as it has gained a reputation over the years 


If all that was set out to make was a slashed film, then mission accomplished, but it could have been so much more. It has the ingredients but isn’t allowed to fully cook. I’m sure for it’s time it was revolutionary.

Now it just feels like a celebrated slasher film.

Grade: C

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