This series begins with the desire to study the classics, gain more knowledge, have both a deeper understanding of, and maybe develop respect for, the Horror films of our past. The reviews I find cover thoughts on both films, with the reviewer watching the original film FIRST. Not me. Not this series. Having virgin eyes to many ‘vintage’ films, I come with unbiased viewership.
Both films do follow similar storylines, a man struggling with the inner war of giving in to the desire to scalp beautiful women. But here’s where the similarities end. I’m trying my hardest to keep this series spoiler free, so you can easily decide whether both, one, or neither sound good to you. Or you can argue me in the comments below! Be prepared for me to argue back. 😉
We’ll follow this order:
- Explore thoughts on the 2012 remake starring Elijah Wood and directed by Franck Khalfoun
- Dig deep into thoughts on the 1980 original starring Joe Spinell and directed by William Lustig
- Does the remake measure up to the original?
My initial thoughts after viewing the opening scene of the 2012 remake are mixed. I mean, it is a hell of an opener, way to set the scene! The story can’t possibly be going anywhere GOOD. But there’s a lot of telling, and not enough showing me information I need. I feel like I’m meant to be shocked, but that’s it, nothing more complex than that. But that can be okay in some instances. Let’s truck on.
I’m loving the depiction of paranoia, but I want more. I want to see our main character, played by Elijah Wood, drenched in suspicion at every turn, in every scene. I want him pulled down, stuck in the loop of paranoia, not just shown this part of him so little. Give me more!
Watching from Wood’s POV for the majority of the film is fun, a little touch of individuality we don’t see everyday. The obsessive interest and behavior we get to see as if we, too, are a part of Wood. As if we, too, have similar interests and behaviors. Neat!
I wish the auditory cues were a little more…specific…and I didn’t have to work as hard to ‘get’ what’s happening. But thankfully this did not take away from the terrifying notes and rhythms of being a woman afraid, being surrounded by the evidence of humans, yet no help comes. How deep this can run. Fantastic job getting me worked up!
In addition, we’re shown the tragic results of giving into our instincts and transgressive thoughts. Medicating the symptoms, while the tumor grows. The horrifying pieces of this remake aren’t throughout, but are strong enough to give nightmares and inspire thought.
Neither Wood’s character or any of the women convince me to like them. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy an unlikeable character, I find them the most fun, the most…REAL. Nobody is really all that likeable, are they? But I feel like I would be dreading the inevitable more if I was given the opportunity to find redeeming, surface level human qualities in our main male and female characters.
Wood’s acting is fine. There are points of genius, but that ending scene….I can’t. I just can’t. Don’t.Make.Me.Start.Laughing.Again.
But the nods to other horror greats! I caught a little wink to American Psycho, 28 Days Later, and Silence of the Lambs. Did I miss any? Nice little kisses to HORROR. Cool, this film is shouting fanboy, which is fine. Errr… but I thought it’s supposed to be a remake?
The opener immediately has me hooked, the grunting and vocals, like our main character is ravished and starving. Gorgeous. I’ve always found older horny gentlemen to be the most creepy. They have to know this, right? The director William Lustig had clear vision, and this is evident from the get go.
Talk about REAL scenes! The special effects are surprising in their success of getting me to believe in the horrifying scenes throughout. For 1980, phenomenal! There’s such a brilliant mix of violence and everyday mundane life actions.
In addition, the inner dialogue I find brilliant, and wish it’s more popular. Not that I think stories should solely be told in thoughts of our main characters, but it could be nice for tough spots in explaining complex human emotions. Forceful storytelling doesn’t work, but in the original Maniac psychological slasher, everything’s connected perfectly and makes sense. We watch our main character, played by Joe Spinell , exercise and validate his feelings. And what feelings those are!
BLOOD! There’s blood! I thought the remake was bloody….oy! And the scenes involving violence aren’t drawn out, like some…others I’ve seen. Perfect length, each scene having specific purpose to bigger picture. The dread and intensity created is unbelievable. Lustig understands that the shock factor is necessary but isn’t excessive. Superior Horror here, guys!
The characters are, for the most part, layered, human, and likeable. Us, the audience, are constantly kept in mind, which is clear in both the overall chilling atmosphere and in the ending. I haven’t felt this way after viewing a film since the first time I watched Wes Craven’s Scream, back when I was….well, a long time ago.
Is Maniac (1980) better than Maniac (2012)?
No. Although they’re both considered Psychological Slasher films, they both speak to very different audiences. Both gory and original, but because they’re so different, I cannot say which is superior. I can say, however, that each should be viewed separately, as their own pieces of art and storytelling.
Comparing the two films against each other would be an injustice to film in general. The original is masterful, intense, and a perfect use of film as this story’s mode. Now, the remake. If you’ve seen the original, watching the remake could make you…angry. Or maybe you’ll love the twisted, poisonous apple, this film gives.
The side by side comparison shows little from each being the same. Aside from the main story, these are two very different films, both with cool aspects. Okay, okay. They’re both pretty gory and intense. But calling the most recent release a remake of the 1980 original should probably not happen.
Horror Movie Recommendations
- If you liked Maniac (2012), to get a similar feel, the best horror movies to watch Drag Me to Hell (2009), You’re Next (2011), The Strangers (2008), Mama (2013), American Psycho (2000)
- If you liked Maniac (1980), watch some of the finest Horror films, like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Hereditary (2018), Midsommar (2019), High Tension (2003) P2 (2007)
I’m extremely interested in your thoughts! If I watched them in their release date order, I wonder how my thoughts would differ. Argue me, make me take your side. Whichever that side may be.
If you’d like to see my thoughts on other remakes of horror originals, I’ll be sure to watch the remake first and compile my thoughts! Just leave both titles in the comments below.
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All photographs pulled from Google Images.
The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster (2023), a Film Review
The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster (2023) is an award-winning sci-fi horror film directed and written by Bomani J. Story.
The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster (2023) is a sci-fi horror film directed and written by Bomani J. Story. Inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this unrated and award-winning film stars Laya DeLeon Hayes, Denzel Whitaker, Chad L. Coleman, Reilly Brooke Stith, and Amani Summer. As of this review, interested viewers can enjoy this film from Shudder with additional availability through purchase or rent.
After a sequence of tragedies and loss, Vicaria (Laya DeLeon Hayes) seeks to cure death. Despite her genius earning her a private school education, few take this ambition seriously. Those who see it think of her only as an example of a girl separated from reality. But all that changes when she has a breakthrough. Unfortunately for her, the systemic issues that oppress her neighborhood can’t be solved as simply as curing death.
What I Like about The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster and Recognition Earned
This film received nominations from four separate film festivals. It won Best Narrative Feature by the Calgary Underground Film Festival and Best Horror / Sci Fi from Jim Thorpe Independent Film Festival. In addition, it received nominations for Best Narrative Feature from the Atlanta Film Festival and a nomination from the SXSW Film Festival.
The beautifully shot scenes earn respect, and the cast remains strong throughout. While Laya DeLeon Hayes executes the most demanding role, Reilly Brooke Stith (Aisha) and Amani Summer (Jada) elevate their material.
The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster dips its commentary into several hot topics. While I would have liked to see further exploration, it deals with scientific responsibilities, systemic issues facing Black Americans, and more. Needless to say, this film has ambition.
While particular elements vary in execution, this remains a unique approach to the dehumanization of these racist and systemic issues while telling an engaging story in the process. While I wouldn’t consider this an arthouse film, it dips into that category in many ways.
Tired Tropes, Trigger Warnings, and Considerations
For a better viewing experience, don’t take the film with the utmost realism in mind. An example of what I mean is how easily and unnoticed bodies are moved and hidden. As a metaphor or motif, it works better to serve the overall message.
As mentioned, many systemic issues come to light within the story, with varying levels of depth. Some examples include racial profiling, police violence, and microaggressions that stretch the “micro” aspect of the word. I also want to clarify that the film focuses on Vicaria’s personal story, using these experiences when applicable to the plot.
Drug addiction and gang violence play prominent roles in the plot. As mentioned above, The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster addresses many of the systemic issues that make a thriving drug industry as opposed to dehumanizing those participating in it.
The titular Monster evokes levels of realistic body horror. While it’s not particularly extensive, the rot remains present and vivid. Partly related, the film creates a surprisingly gory story.
What I Dislike about The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster
Several plot points remain underdeveloped or underexplored. This choice might indicate sequel material, but I don’t think that’s the case here. For example, viewers hear about a “body snatcher,” but the narrative doesn’t build the mystery until the end. Perhaps this requires a slightly longer run time, but it also could be cut with some edits to the script.
Her Monster didn’t particularly evoke fear. The rot evokes disgust but not terror. The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster remains more focused on the story than the horror.
For those looking for horror rooted in real issues but not afraid to delve into the absurd, The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster remains a strong choice. While it might not evoke the terror and haunting we horror fans hope for, the bittersweet film certainly provides many reasons to give this film a view.
(4 / 5)
Blood Flower (2022), a Film Review
Blood Flower (2022) is a Malaysian supernatural horror film directed by Dain Said. Originally titled Harum Malam.
Blood Flower (2022) is a Malaysian supernatural horror film directed by Dain Said. Originally titled Harum Malam, the film stars Idan Aedan, Bront Palarae, and Remy Ishak. As of this review, the film is available on Shudder and AMC+ with additional availability for rent or purchase.
After a family tragedy, Iqbal (Idan Aedan) has trouble finding focus as an apprentice healer. His family remains in shambles, and Iqbal struggles to find a purpose in the wake of this change. As his father (Bront Palarae as Norman) finds temporary work helping a family friend, a terrible horror becomes unleashed. Now, Iqbal must overcome his internal turmoil or lose even more.
What I Like in Blood Flower
The horror evoked here has some elements of fabulism with a heavy emphasis on the supernatural component. In general, I like the established world and how this supernatural element connects to the characters’ development.
Throughout Blood Flower, the acting remains consistent and engaging. The relationship between Norman and Iqbal, which provides the heart of the film, remains a particularly well-executed point. Even when the writing falls short, the acting wins me over more often than not.
The film builds up its horror, which elevates the execution and overall effect. I won’t claim that the horror truly haunts the viewer, but it remains unsettling and, even uncomfortable, throughout.
As for the design of the monster, it works. There are points that remain strong, forcing a rather uncomfortable visual or experience that provides an effective execution of Blood Flower’s vision. One especially effective choice is including stop motion in some of the scenes. This visual creates a somewhat jarring feel to the supernatural entity that still lingers in my mind.
Tired Tropes and Trigger Warnings
Blood Flower includes sexual assaults that remain clunkily included in the plot. When dealing with such material, especially when it remains essential to the story, the execution makes or breaks the quality. Unfortunately, the execution feels rushed and more for the shock of the reveal.
Possession-assisted suicide remains an element within the film. While I think the distance between such harm and the context of the film doesn’t rise above confusion, it deserves a mention in this section.
There are general decisions made for the sake of the plot. While this can fall into the dislike section, it’s within a range so as to not completely distract or undermine the viewing experience.
If any of these are deal breakers, then Blood Flower might be a skip.
What I Dislike in Blood Flower
Where this movie falls short is building up some of its elements to their conclusion by the end of the film. The previously mentioned sexual assaults make for a strong example, but another remains the human villain. As they are the reason for the monster, I am surprised by the general lack of attention and presence the character receives.
Iqbal unlocking his power feels underwhelming and lacks any real visuals or style. We have magic and special effects, but his power consists of holding out his hand. The issue lies in the execution, not the actor, as Idan Aedan does everything he can with the given command.
Going into the previous points, a spiritual master helps Iqbal train to become a healer. This person isn’t the one who unlocks their power. I still wonder why so little development on this important point remains in the film.
Blood Flower, or Harum Malam, remains an interesting supernatural horror that drops its execution towards the end. It provides a unique viewing experience with equal parts ingenuity and creativity to provide an effective horror. But it remains a flawed work with some wasted potential. Still, it earns its runtime for those interested in Malaysian horror.
(2.5 / 5)
Night’s End (2022), a Film Review
Night’s End (2022) is a supernatural horror film directed by Jennifer Reeder and written by Brett Neveu, starring Geno Walker.
Night’s End (2022) is a supernatural horror film directed by Jennifer Reeder and written by Brett Neveu. The cast of this film includes Geno Walker, Kate Arrington, Felonious Munk, Lawrence Grimm, and Michael Shannon. As of this review, this film remains accessible to Shudder and AMC+ subscribers.
Recently divorced and looking to start anew, Ken Barber (Geno Walker) passes the time by making YouTube videos. It soon becomes apparent that one of his videos catches something strange. The further he investigates this mystery, the more aggressive this phenomenon becomes. Despite making him an online sensation, it forces him to acquire help from unlikely sources.
What I Like about Night’s End
Night’s End provides the innovation and execution of a film on a tight budget and clear message. It brings out all the best qualities of a B film that understands what it wants to do. The setting remains a perfect example of this ingenuity, containing itself within Ken Barber’s apartment and using Zoom calls to add additional cast members.
Unrelated to the horror, I like the chemistry between Kate Arrington (as ex-wife Kelsey Dees) and Geno Walker. It’s not often we find an ex-wife depicted as a good person character, and when that does happen, it’s usually because he will win her over by the end of the story. This film doesn’t fall into these tropes. A similar point applies to the new husband, Isaac Dees (Michael Shannon).
There’s a psychological component to the horror, which improves the supernatural elements. While it does linger on Ken Barber’s ongoing battle with mental illness, Night’s End doesn’t exactly use this as an excuse to undermine what the viewer sees.
While there are some execution issues I will discuss, Night’s End provides a tight script and quality performance from its cast. Geno Walker’s Ken Barber requires a believable and complex performance for success, and the actor rises to the challenge.
Tired Tropes and Triggers
The biggest disclaimer remains the character’s mental health struggles. While I believe the film refutes many of the dangerous mentally ill tropes, it still allows for some degree of gaslighting. I also think it hints at a few potential issues without exploring any with greater depth. I noted potential alcoholism, OCD, and agoraphobia. But none of these are given too much attention, for better or worse.
Some minor body horror moments might be difficult for squeamish horror fans. However, it hardly makes it a proper introduction to the niche.
If these are deal breakers, perhaps Night’s End won’t satisfy your viewing needs.
What I Dislike about Night’s End
Night’s End goes so far in strategically applying its budget but provides a few scenes with bad CGI. If it had more style, I’d give it a B movie pass. But it’s just not substantive enough for that pass. While some CGI and special effects remain better than others, the film leans on lower quality.
Toward the end of the film, the characters allow the villain to do some random and weird things with little pushback. Only one person consistently pushes back against the growingly strange requests and receives so little screen time. Some of these people are supposedly experts in supernatural affairs or amateur enthusiasts. Regardless, anyone should have issues with some of these requests toward the conclusion.
While the film remains scary at points, it doesn’t terrify its audience. While the final moments pay off the build-up, we don’t particularly linger on the ramifications.
Night’s End provides a charming but not horrifying supernatural thrill. Ken makes a unique protagonist, struggling to overcome his issues as others seek to exploit him and bring about chaos. It remains an uncommon viewing experience but lacks the weight of a haunting horror.
(3 / 5)