Maniac is one of those hard to define flicks. Although, it would seem easy to lump this into one category because of the subject matter, this is actually a hard movie to categorize. It is not really a horror film and not really a slasher. Sure, it has its typical slasher suspense scenes with the random girl running and hiding from the killer and the gory moments are all there, but, there is something about this movie that separates itself from most of the others of its genre. This, in my opinion, is typical of Tom Savini special effects flicks from the early 80’s. The grittiness, disturbing nature of most of those films will never be duplicated. And I am not talking about flicks like “Creepshow” or “Day of the Dead” (although, that one is disturbing), I am talking about films like “Friday the 13th”, “The Prowler”, “The Burning”, and “Nightmare in a Damaged Brain” (even though Savini said he never worked on that flick it certainly looks like his style).
Maniac is simply about a man named Frank (played very well by actor Joe Spinell) who was tormented by his mother when he was very young. As a result of this, he grew up to be a sick person who murders woman, scalps them, and uses their hair to nail on to a collection of mannequins. He ends up falling in love with a woman named Anna (Caroline Munro), and when he sees her he seems to be a normal fellow. This all leads up to an interesting climax.
Now, the storyline is rather simple but the movie is suspenseful enough to hold your interest. I will admit, the first 40 minutes were a bit slow, but once when the story starts going more into Franks behavior when he is by himself and then when he acts towards Anna, things start picking up.
Of course, Savini’s gore scenes are excellent just like the rest of his stuff. We get to see Savini in the movie himself in a rather famous scene where he gets his brains splattered all over the inside of a car. Though, as a gore fan myself, this is definitely not the goriest flick I have seen. But after listening to the cast and director talk about the movie, I don’t think it was meant to be. Joe Spinell himself said that the flick wasn’t as violent as a Hershell Gordan Lewis film but was meant to be more realistic and shocking. So, when watching this movie it is important to know this instead of going into the movie expecting a real gore-fest.