By Jerome Reuter
In 2012, we were treated to a lackluster remake of Maniac. It was a failed attempt to turn grindhouse classic into an art house film. Aide form that, we got a completely unconvincing performance from Elijah Wood. The original film, released by Bill Lustig in 1980, will always remain the superior product. It’s a work reflecting a city still reeling from the shooting spree of David Burkowitz. It’s a product of its time, in every sense of the word. Not to mention, Joe Spinell brought the character of Frank Zito to life. He turned out the performance of his career, and poured everything he had into the role. Then again, when you help write the story, you already know what to bring to the screen.
Fast-forward to 2015, and a film by the title of Sociopathia. In this day and age, originality ideas in horror are getting harder to come by. So often were treated to remakes, and movies that are so predictable, we can predict the ending in the first act. This film is a fresh face to an old narrative. Sitting down with this one, were instantly reminded of Lustig’s 1980 classic. However, it takes it in an original direction. It’s not a plagiary; it’s homage, and one that deserves all the credit it receives.
The narrative throws you right into madness from the very beginning. We’re introduced to out Zito, a young artist named Mara. Which is the one element that sets it apart from a carbon copy of Maniac. Our person who walks a fine line between sanity and being a psychopath is female. I’m not sure if this is exactly empowerment, it’s not my place to make that judgment. However, a visceral story of a psychopathic serial killer who’s a woman is quite thought provoking. She constantly walks a fine line between stability, and a complete psychopath thrown over the edge. The film does a great job at displaying this, and commentating on an industry known for its’ misogyny.
Much like Zito, Mara is someone we can empathize with at times. We see just how her mental state affects her, and how much she tries to lead a normal life. It’s not just a fascinating look onto the mind of a murderer, but a slow, spiraling journey into madness. The atmosphere of this one is strong, as we witness the isolation that plagues her everyday life.
There’s one angle I noticed in this one I also found quite intriguing. Mara is one of the few gay murderers I’ve seen in a film like this. Some might look at this as being homophobic, but I completely disagree. Sexual orientation has no bearing on mental illness, I see her as a murderer who happens to be gay. Even John Waters has stated that it’s quite healthy to admit there’s a gay villain.
“Gay is not enough, it’s a good start” – John Waters
Actress Tammy Jean captures what made the original version of Maniac so great. It’s not the murders it’s the madness. It’s the psychopath we’re fascinated by, and that’s why we can’t take out eyes off the screen for a moment. Also, don’t blink; or you might miss a brief homage to Joe D’Amato’s Behind The Darkness.
This film retells a classic grindhouse narrative from a female perspective. That’s what film is, mythology. Directors are the storytellers, retelling these tales for a new generation. Like all films, this one has its’ flaws. Thankfully, they’re quite easy to overlook. Although nothing will replace the original Maniac, I’ll take this over the remake any day of the week.
Om February 9th of next year, this hits the streets. Give this a watch, you won;t regret it.