Maniac (Blu-ray) (2012)

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Released 16-Oct-2013

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Trailer-x 7 for other films
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 2012
Running Time 88:50
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Franck Khalfoun
Studio
Distributor
Gryphon Entertainment Starring Elijah Wood
Nora Arnezeder
Genevieve Alexander
Liane Balaban
Jan Broberg
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Robin Coudert


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     Frank (Elijah Wood) is the owner / manager of a store that restores antique mannequins which has been run by his family for three generations. However Frank is a very disturbed young man who stalks and kills young women, some met through dating sites, before scalping them. The scalps he puts on mannequins in his private rooms in the store, where he talks to them as if they were alive. His killing and scalping of young women is his way of taking revenge on his promiscuous, now deceased, mother who ignored Frank as a boy, bringing a succession of lovers home to the store. Then Frank meets Anna (Nora Arnezeder), a photographer who asks to use Frank’s mannequins in an upcoming exhibition of her work. Frank becomes infatuated with Anna; she could be Frank’s redemption, but as he tries not to hurt her his urge to kill becomes unbearable.

     Maniac is a remake of the 1980 film of the same name that starred Joe Spinell and was directed by William Lustig, who is credited in this remake as producer. This new film follows the earlier film fairly closely, but updates the story (one victim is met on an internet dating site), and the main character is very different because Wood is a slight, timid man in contrast to the loud, chubby Spinell.

     This version of Maniac is however as nasty, seedy and grimy as its predecessor. It is bloody and gory with graphic violence; for example, a knife is thrust into a woman’s jaw in one scene but the main gore is when the camera does not turn away as the victims are scalped and their hair and skin pulled from their skulls. This is all done in close-up for, except for one scene, the entire film is shot hand held as seen through a POV of Frank’s eyes; we see only what he sees and hear only what he hears, including his internal conversations, and we only see Wood when he is reflected in mirrors or other shiny surfaces, which does take some getting used to, at least initially. But this technique does add to the tension and terror as Frank stalks or chases his victims through the dark streets or empty subway stations of LA.

     Maniac is a bleak look into the psyche of a disturbed young man. Once you get used to the POV camera the film works as a confronting and chilling piece of cinema as it is well put together and well-acted. However, it is not an easy film and it deserves its R rating.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Maniac is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original ratio, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     The video cannot be judged against the usual criteria for the film often uses deliberate contrast and brightness variations to reflect the mental state of Frank – the scenes with Anna, for example, are very light in contrast to the dark grimy night streets of LA or the dark interiors of Frank’s rooms. There is also deliberate fuzziness and lack of focus in places, but at other times the print is sharp with fine detail and depth of field. The colour palate is dull and grimy, with the blood a deep crimson.

     There was some aliasing against vertical rails and noise reduction but this grainy look enhances the seedy feel of the film.

     There are no subtitles.

     The video is very good.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The feature audio is English DTS-MA HD 5.1.

     Because of the way the film was made from the POV of Frank we either hear what he hears or his inner dialogue. As a result, some of the audio is deliberately muffled. However, dialogue is generally understandable and the surrounds are frequently in use for voices, music and ambient sound. The subwoofer adds bass to support the tension, the music and Frank’s heartbeats.

     The original electronic score by Robin Coudert was very good and supported the visuals well adding to the tension.

     Lip synchronisation was fine.

     The audio track was effective.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

     This is more a comment about how the menu and operations were authored, which I think is some of the poorest I have seen for a while for a number of reasons.

     1: On start-up the trailers below play – they cannot be skipped, nor can you access either the top menu or pop-up menu until the trailers are finished. Fast forwarding is the solution, but one expects better from Blu-ray.

     2: The interviews run almost 2 hours and while there are 6 chapter stops there is no menu for the individual sections, so you cannot easily go back to any that interest you.

     3: The main menu shows “trailer” as an option. However, selecting that option creates a pause, then a return to the extras menu screen. This occurred in both my Blu-ray players and my computer.

Trailers

     On start-up there were trailers for The ABCs of Death, Thanatomorphose, Blind Alley, Inbred, Father’s Day, The 25th Reich and Grabbers that collectively run 12:10. These trailers cannot be selected from the menu.

Interviews (116:08)

     These cast and crew interviews run longer than the feature! These are interviews without any film or behind the scenes footage. The questions are posed in white text on the screen. Those interviewed are director Franck Khalfoun (17 minutes), producer / writer Alexandre Aja (19 minutes) and actors Elijah Wood (two separate interviews, 20 minutes on set and 48 minutes at Cannes, and a fair bit of information is repeated) and Nora Arnezeder (12 minutes). Not surprisingly the information is extensive, covering the genesis of the project, how people got involved, the casting, the decision to shoot the film through the POV of the killer and the challenges that resulted for the DP and actors, the motivations of the characters, the differences between this film and the original as well as a range of other questions. There is some sloppy editing and part sentences are cut but the answers are genuine and interesting, including some different views, for example about whether Maniac is a love story! Certainly lengthy, but entertaining and well worth a watch.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region A US Blu-ray includes an audio commentary with director Franck Khalfoun, star Elijah Wood and executive producer Alix Taylor that is said to be pretty good, plus a Making of (66 minutes), deleted scenes (4 min), a trailer and stills gallery. It misses out on the extensive interviews we get. The Region B UK release is identical in specifications and extras to our version, including the interviews but missing out on the above. Two very different sets of worthwhile extras – take your pick.

Summary

     Maniac is bloody, tense and confronting, but it is well made and well-acted. Frodo Baggins would certainly not approve. The film deserves its R rating but is definitely work a look for fans of the genre.

     The video and audio are good, and the extras are interviews that run for longer than the film.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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