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?
  • Recommendations

Maniac (2012)

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?

Maniac (1980)

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.

“There’s more than one way to skin a cat.”

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.