Thursday, October 31, 2013


Society (1989)
Dir. BrianYunza
Written by Woody Keith, Rick Fry
Starring Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez, Ben Slack

So there’s this kid, Billy Whitney (actual actor’s name: Billy Warlock) who feels like an outsider. He feels like a misfit, like his parents don’t understand him, like there is something hidden from him that makes him feel vaguely uneasy. Understandable, it was the late 80s at the time and if you didn’t feel like something was seriously wrong then chances are you were an irredeemable sociopath. And, after all, we’ve been through plenty of misfits and outcasts this Chainsawnukah season, I don’t see why this one is any different, let’s take a look at his car, probably some beat up old toyota or something to show that he is not amongst the chosen and hence we can relate to…

Oh, huh. Well, I’m sure when we see him he’ll be some kind of rugged, self-sufficient individual who needs a giant jacked-up jeep to perform tasks of manly…

Oh, well, maybe not.

Obviously, by the end of the 80’s outcasts were becoming an endangered species, hiding in the shadows and refusing to allow themselves to appear on camera for fear of being hunted down by a mob of pastel polo shirts and forcibly indoctrinated into their ranks. So instead of getting your usual misunderstood outcast, in this case we get a misfit who instead of being a misfit is actually super awesome, he’s a star basketball player, drives that super fly jeep, lives in a giant mansion in a warm climate with palm trees, possibly California, has a blonde cheerleader girlfriend, and is successfully running for class president. Not exactly Napoleon Dynamite, or even that shiny vampire fellah the kids seem to love today, you know how they are. The guy from COSMOPOLIS.

But although he has literally everything anyone could possibly want, something is still bothering him: the fact that there are still higher echelons of society into which even he, with his magnificent ride and perky blonde girlfriend and stylish basketball hot pants and absolutely excessive haircut, is not privy to. This is the society of the title, and it seems that this is a small but influential contingent of people who are not just ridiculously wealthy, but absolutely obscenely wealthy. And they carefully control this tight-knit clique in such a way that it commands awe among the outsiders. Even Billy --who just in case you forgot deliberately bought that jeep-- can plainly see that these guys are honkie assholes of the absolute highest caliber, but to his parents and his girlfriend, getting accepted by these these wonderbread cucumber sandwiches seems of absolute paramount importance. The closer he gets to them, however, the more it seems like something truly seriously fucked up is going on behind the closed doors of “society.”

Day 9: The four fugitives from the Flock of Seagulls video shoot remain at large.

Here’s the weird thing about this movie. Despite all the patently hilarious 80’s trappings and the overwhelming abundance of rich-ass cracker preppie douchebags (on both sides of the conflict), this is actually a real good movie. I was chuckling at the beginning, as they try to get us to take seriously that this guy who lives in a mansion and is the captain of the basketball team is somehow oppressed, but as the movie goes on it somehow, against all odds, starts to find tendrils of genuine paranoia creeping into the expensive plastic facade. Nothing out-and-out inexplicable happens for quite a long time, maybe even for the majority of the runtime, but little odd incidents start to pile up. Insinuations of something really twisted and depraved brewing just below the surface, where the normal people can’t see it. Only Billy, with his golden ticket to high society, can get close enough to these cloistered bastards to see that something is definitely off. And the more certain he becomes that he’s onto them, the more strange things seem to get.

And this is a kind of strange that I didn’t expect from Yunza, who I always regarded as kind of a second-tier Stuart Gordon (though he did do an OK segment of that anthology I watched last year, H.P. LOVECRAFT'S NECRONOMICON). Yunza’s films usually seem to be slapdash affairs which try to distract you from their general shoddiness with chintzy stylization and goopy special effects. I never expected that he’d try for (and pull off) something like this restrained, slowly escalating paranoid thriller. But man, if you can look past the goofy haircuts this is one is a real nightmare, a guy stuck in a noose that he can’t quite see but is obviously growing tighter with every moment he struggles against it. Something is clearly going on here, and Yunza delicately but deliberately keeps hinting that whatever it is, it’s something really bad. This isn’t gonna be a cover for a drug smuggling ring or something. This society is up to something that your mind is probably not ready to deal with.

I'm trying to not spoil this for you, so this is all you get.

And when the other shoe drops, holy shit, does it deliver. The film’s discipline pays off in spades and the finale suddenly lets loose a floodgate of twisted genius that should definitely, definitely never be watched by someone on hallucinogens. I can’t spoil it for you, in fact I won’t even include any images from it, because you need to experience this for yourself. But suffice to say that the film’s finale may have you questioning your own sanity. After the last couple films I saw disappointed me with their failure of imagination, this is one which will almost certainly take you somewhere you can’t possibly see coming. It’s a fever dream of twisted images and perversely hilarious transgression which is almost certainly not like anything you’ve seen before.

I guess it’s no surprise, then, that although the film did well in Europe, in the US it was shelved for years and never managed to catch on. The depraved creativity on display here, melded with a pretty brutal social criticism of the wealthy elite, just wasn’t where people’s heads were at in the late 80s and early 90’s. Just like PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS, this one has some not-so-subtle dark humor about just how the people on top stay on top, and possibly an even more fatalistic vision for what might happen to anyone who attempts to oppose them. Neither of those films really seemed to reach people with that message at the time, maybe because the middle class still wasn’t hurting too much and the people who were really getting fucked over (like Fool from PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS) had gotten so marginalized that they barely even had a voice to describe their problems. The middle class was still doing alright enough that they could afford to ignore the poor, and the poor, being ignored, had finally acknowledged their utter powerlessness to fight for their own preservation. I guess that’s the point of making Billy a fellow rich guy, at least a tangential part of their world. The movie also has a lower-class character named Blanchard (Tim Bartell), who actually is the first one to realize just how deeply off something is here. But he also has no access, no in with these people and no power to protect himself against them (interestingly, Blanchard is explicitly revealed to be Jewish, another sign that he’s a genuine “outsider”). By the end of the 80’s, the idea of the poor fighting for themselves seemed naive, even suicidal; we had to have a character with at least some of the same pull as the malevolent, greedy forces which were then (and still are) sucking the life out of this world and the unlucky people in it.

Well, that was then. But maybe now they’ve gone a little too far. It’s not just the marginalized outsiders who have been left out in the cold; it’s nearly everyone. That sense of isolation and hopelessness shared by the characters in the social critiques of this era may now be dissipating, as we realize we’re all in the same boat, with the same rich fucks forcing us to row them wherever they want to go. Maybe it’s time America had another look at SOCIETY. And even if not, you should still watch it cuz it’s a pretty damn great little horror movie and the special effects were done by a guy who is only credited as “Screaming Mad George.”* Can you resist a movie by a guy with a name that good? No you cannot.

*Also the director of THE GUYVER, where he turned Mark Hamill into a half-man/half cockroach like the true American hero that he is.


  • SEQUEL: No, although they were talking about doing one for awhile.
  • REMAKE: Not yet. Seems inevitable.
  • BOOBIES: Oh yeah, in a sex scene that even wikipedia describes as "acrobatic"
  • ENTRAILS? Borderline, gotta say no, though.
  • CURSES: No
  • (UNCANNY) VALLEY OF THE DOLLS? There is a blowup doll that is used for, I guess, jokes? And then later, weird disfigured dolls that someone leaves in his jeep. It turns out (SPOILER) they are all a weird practical joke, though. Still, a creepy doll is a creepy doll.
  • OBSCURITY LEVEL: Mid. Well known in the right circles, completely unknown elsewhere.

Head Trauma

Head Trauma (2006)
Dir. Lance Weiler
Written by Brian Majeska, Lance Weiler
Starring Vince Mola, Jamil Mangan, Mary Monahan

In this disappointing micro-budget, a guy wakes up from a car crash and walks to the abandoned home of his dead grandmother, in the hopes of squatting there and fixing the place up. Except, the place is a deserted wreck and he keeps having mysterious visions of a coat-wearing figure with a hidden face and a dead body wrapped in a sleeping bag. Is the house haunted by some unknown tragedy from the past, or is the explanation closer to the correct one that you’ve already figured out from reading those first two sentences?

The movie has a nicely dismal tone and a great location in this obviously genuine abandoned house, but it spends the whole runtime treading water before finally coming to the twist that it was telegraphing from frame one. Nothing really seems especially sinister because you already have a strong suspicion that this is all going to be explained by some stupid twist which negates everything, and even the film’s paltry attempts at boo scares are as rote as they come. It has a nice deliberate pace and some mildly effective paranoid atmosphere, but what’s the point when the payoffs are all so absolutely generic? The only real thing is has going for it is Vince Mola as our hero, who gives a boldly convincing performance as a schlubby, thoroughly pathetic alcoholic loser. It’s the kind of thing you could never get away with in a Hollywood movie, so it’s kind of refreshing to see it here. Otherwise, not much going on in this one. If faceless guys in hoodies are your thing, check out the much better INTRUDERS instead.


  • SEQUEL: No
  • REMAKE: No
  • SLUMMING A-LISTER: Absolutely not.
  • BOOBIES: Not gonna get too many in a micro-budget.
  • ENTRAILS? None
  • VAMPIRES: None
  • CURSES: More of a haunting type deal than a curse.
  • (UNCANNY) VALLEY OF THE DOLLS? No dolls. Well, there is a creepy doll floating around in the basement, but it's not a major plot point so I'm not counting it.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

We Are What We Are (2013)

We Are What We Are (2013)
Dir. Jim Mickle
Written by Nick Daminic, Jim Mickle
Starring Bill Sage, Julia Garner, Ambyr Childers, Michael Parks, Wyatt Russell

The two teenage daughters of the Parker family (Julia Garner, Ambyr Childers) have some big problems. Their mom has recently died, their father is grief-stricken, there’s no work in their tiny Appalachian town, access to the outside world is limited by torrential rains, and to top it all off, dear old Dad isn’t going to let a little thing like Mommy’s death prevent the family from celebrating their quaint ancestral ritual the old-fashioned way: cannibalism and bible-reading. Two great tastes that taste great together.

I’m sort of divided about this one (a remake of a 2010 Mexican film of the same name that I haven’t seen). On one hand, this is an unmistakably well-made film. The performances of all the leads are excellent, the film looks gorgeous, the atmosphere is bleak and the score is ominous and evocative. I appreciate how seriously director Jim Mickle (STAKELAND, MULBERRY STREET) takes everything; this is a very serious, deliberately paced horror film which takes a sober and nuanced look at the tension hidden beneath the surface of this outwardly normal family. Despite the lurid subject matter, the horror is mostly psychological, coming from the teenage girl’s repulsion at the “ritual” they are expected to perform and their powerlessness to stop it or oppose their father’s stern will. And dad (Bill Sage) isn’t a one-dimensional villain, either; he genuinely loves his daughters, and fervently believes in the innate rightness of their way of life, even as his mind may be slipping a little from years of indulging his man-eating ways. These are great, complex characters, and they’re written and performed sublimely. Add to that the always great Michael Parks as the local doctor who may just be putting the pieces together, and there’s an abundance of things to admire and enjoy here.

Thanks lord, for providing us with this delicious meal, and on an unrelated note thanks for the ironclad moral code that makes this whole thing work so well.

Unfortunately, as much as I respect the craftsmanship here and the seriousness that Mickle brings to the story, I also wonder if it might have benefitted from a few cheaper thrills. The whole experience is so classy that it feels almost uptight, stodgy. While the tension between the family and the outside world (particularly Wyatt Russell [son of Kurt!] as a young deputy that catches the eye of one of the Parker daughters) works perfectly well, it’s also an extremely low-key kind of tension, and the particular structure of the story doesn’t allow for a slow build approach which gradually ratchets up the suspense, so much as a long, quiet setup with one final burst of action for the climax. The complicated tension within the family works much better, and in fact it’s almost a shame that the whole cannibalism thing is in there competing with what might otherwise be a mannered drama about the shifting dynamics of a family in the wake of a death. But wish it or not, the cannibalism is the ultimate star here, and the problem is that it ends up being the one plot element which has the least real impact. Far too much of the runtime gets burned hinting at things we already pretty much know, and when these thing finally do show up on screen they’re exactly what you imagined, nothing more, nothing less. We already knew it was coming, so when it arrives it’s not especially shocking.

Suspicious Michael Parks is suspicious. 

Cannibalism itself is such a prurient concept that most of the shock is in the basic premise itself; once you’ve imagined it, the worst is over, the movie doesn’t have anything to show you that’s gonna be worse than your own mind can produce. Hence, there aren’t really any standout sequences of particular horror, just the general, simmering unease that the conceit itself evokes. And for my money, that’s just a little too minor to hang an entire 105 minute movie on. I realize I’m a little more jaded than most audiences, but as far as I’m concerned if you want to really shake me you’re going to have to be a little more creative with your premise than just saying, “there is a family of cannibals.” I know, cannibalism is gross. What else ya got? For a horror movie about a family of cannibal serial killers, it’s oddly staid.  

It does have a great ending which finally brings a few unexpected elements and a little bit of much-needed energy. It’s too late by that point to save the thing from being an overall languid experience, but it does muster up enough punch to leave you with a respectable smile on your face. And of course, languid does not equal bad, exactly. The story is always compelling, and it’s helped along by strong character work and a meticulous attention to detail. It’s never boring, it’s just never quite as gripping as it ought to be. Mickle has nothing to be ashamed of in this nuanced, classy, and exceptionally crafted film. But I hope he approaches the next one with a little more bite.


  • SEQUEL: No
  • REMAKE: Yes, of the 2010 Mexican film of the same name.
  • SLUMMING A-LISTER: None, but you and I both know that Michael Parks is one of the great ones, and that's all that matters.
  • BOOBIES: Yes, although in a decidedly unsexy situation.
  • DECAPITATIONS OR DE-LIMBING: None, most of the chopping is off-screen.
  • ENTRAILS? Same.
  • CULTISTS: This is all done in the name of family religion, I guess it is a cult by definition, but I'm still gonna say it's not really a "cult" movie.
  • SLASHERS: ...serial killers, but not slashers per se.
  • CURSES: No
  • (UNCANNY) VALLEY OF THE DOLLS? No dolls in this one.
  • OBSCURITY LEVEL: Mid, got a limited theatrical release this year.
The two daughters talk to each other about their problems.

Interlude: 11 Great (and two terrible) Halloween Favorites You Probably Haven't Seen

Hey everyone! As some of you may have guessed by now, I watch a lot of horror movies. Seems that some of you have been asking me for some Halloween suggestions. Initially I was sort of surprised since I already took the time to review MANIAC and GOTHIC and STREET TRASH and so on for ya, but gradually I started picking up on context clues that those might not be exactly everyone’s speed, or able to be watched by a normal well-adjusted person without having their eyeballs melt. On the other hand, you don’t need me to tell you to go see ROSEMARY’S BABY, THE SHINING, THE EXORCIST, HALLOWEEN, PSYCHO, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (original, sigh), those old Universal Monster movies, Romero's DEAD movies (NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, DAWN OF THE DEAD, DAY OF THE DEAD, LAND OF THE DEAD) that kind of thing. You already know that. But if you’ve made it through those and still hunger for some good Halloween fun, I got a few more that I think are really great  and most people would enjoy, but are not as famous as they deserve. So, without further ado:

Mr. Subtlety’s List of 11 Great Halloween Movies Most Normal People Haven’t Seen (in no particular order)

Trick ‘r Treat (2007): An anthology of four interwoven stories that takes place on Halloween night, this one is on my list every year for a great reason: It’s a fun, scary, high-energy and festive romp with a streak of jet black humor about a mile long.

The Changeling (1980): A classy, deliberately paced, atmosphere-laden ghost story set in a scary old house. This is the heart of what a good ghost story ought to be like, and as an added bonus you get cranky old George C. Scott giving a great performance as the lead. [LPT: Don’t get confused and rent the 2008 Clint Eastwood movie of the same name, it’s not a horror film and not as good.]

The Thing (1982): John Carpenter directs this pinnacle of sci-fi horror which expertly mixes and balances dread-soaked paranoia and nightmare-fueled monster effects.

The Pact (2012): A recent example of a indie horror film with a tiny budget that still delivers the goods in terms of skin-crawling unease. If you’ve ever started to get the feeling you were not alone while walking around your darkened house at night, this is one of the best evocations of that feeling that I know of. (original review here)

Creepshow (1982): Another anthology, this time with four segments written by Stephen King and directed by George Romero. Colorful, entertaining, inventive, and a great mood-setter, this one is a great party movie which holds up remarkably well. If insects creep you out, for all that is holy do not watch the last segment.

Red Lights (2012): With a great cast (Sigourney Weaver, Robert De Niro, Cillian Murphy) and sumptuously stylish direction, this one would be a worthwhile watch even if it wasn’t a deft and supremely creepy examination of skepticism and belief. That it is those things too pushes it from stylish thriller into the “contemporary classic” category. (original review here)

Eyes Without a Face (1960): This subtitled French film (yes, you’ll have to read) takes a fundamentally twisted idea (a scientist murders Parisian women to steal their faces and transplant them to his disfigured daughter) and infuses it with a dreamy, poetic black and white menace to great effect. The genesis of a million lesser films, this one remains a nightmarish classic.

Tale of Two Sisters (2003): A deeply creepy Korean (yes, you’ll have to read again) charmer from Kim Ji-Woon, for my money one of the best directors in the world right now. Disorienting and soul-crushing in a way that only a Korean horror film could really be, but also oddly satisfying.  

The Haunting (1963): Robert Wise (director of THE SOUND OF MUSIC?) takes on a classic Black and White ghost / psychological horror story in this 60’s gem which just fuckin’ drips atmosphere. Time and endless imitations have dulled it’s edge somewhat, but it still has plenty of ability to unnerve. A good reminder that the mind is always a much more terrifying place than any haunted house.

Phantasm (1979): A low-budget first second feature from Don Coscarelli (BUBBA HO-TEP), this one shows its age a little but makes up for it through sheer ingenuity and creativity. You’ve seen a million movies about zombies and ghosts and vampires, but how many have you seen about evil flying silver orbs that suck out your brain? This one is a non-stop surreal nightmare guaranteed to make you think twice before fucking with a weird tall dude who runs a creepy funeral home.
Suspiria (1977): Before he went completely bug nuts insane and gave up trying to tell a story entirely, Italian genius/psychopath Dario Argento made this, a focused but freewheeling fever dream of violence, suspense, and terror that remains his best work. It perfectly balances a surreal style, classic score, and creepy premise with short bursts of shocking violence. Not for the faint of heart, but for those who dare the rewards are great.

All those above films are genuinely good, but if your goal is just to watch something ridiculous and funny and get hammered, there are two absolutely essential films which always deliver the goods. These are sort of terrible, but not terrible in the boring, incompetent way that most bad films are (see; PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE). These films have real budgets and were made by talented, even visionary people, so it's even more entertaining that they're as laughably absurd as they are. With the proper application of copious amounts of alcohol and good friends, they can't miss.

I Know Who Killed Me (2007): Lindsay Lohan plays responsible high-school piano prodigy Audrey Fleming, who gets mysteriously kidnapped, only to reappear later on claiming her name is Dakota Moss and that she is a chain-smoking badass stripper with a super strong robotic arm. It gets crazier from there, but the movie’s ace in the whole is that the ludicrous plot is bolstered by equally ostentatious style, drowning scene after scene in intense blues or reds. The is no better movie to watch as a drinking game with a bunch of friends, as you watch in disbelief about just how crazy this thing can get.

Lifeforce (1985): Naked Space Vampires invade earth and take over our minds in this has-to-be-seen-to-be-believed absurdist sci-fi horror from Tobe Hooper (THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE). Copious nudity, expensive 80’s special effects, crazy monsters, and a passionate french kiss between Steve Railsback and Patrick Stewart make this monument to bad judgement something that needs to be seen by everyone, everywhere. Guaranteed to get you through a bucket of vodka.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Maniac (2012)

Maniac (2012)
Dir. Franck Khalfoun
Written by Alexandre Aja, Gregory Levasseur
Starring Elijah Wood, Arnezeder

I think he and the blue guy from I KNOW WHO KILLED ME would really hit it off.

The original 1980 MANIAC is probably best known as one of those films that just goes way too far. One of those movies that makes you feel dirty just having watched it. The 80’s were a great time for movies about hellish urban nightmares bursting at the seams with sleazy, depraved deviants (hell, even CHILD’S PLAY has a little of that) but boy, MANIAC ups the ante a whole lot by avoiding the usual horror rule that the narrative follows the victims. Instead Joe Spinell (a real titan among actors typecast as sleazy, sadistic lowlifes) --the titular MANIAC-- sweats, simmers, and scalps his way through a long line of women and all we can do is watch in discomfort. There’s not really any break for the viewer, no relief at all; even when he leaves his rat’s nest apartment with the bloody scalps stapled to tear-soaked mannequins, it’s just as disturbing to watch this twisted freak apparently successfully fool everyone into thinking he’s not a dangerous psycho. It’s such an unpleasant, immersive experience that even Tom Savini had to admit that this was one case where they probably went a little too far.

Well, the Frenchie filmmakers of this modern remake correctly determined that they would never be able to match the original in terms of filth and sleaze. You can’t go home again, and it just isn’t possible to capture or even legitimately imitate the fetid cesspool of 1980’s New York. So instead of trying to directly recreate the sweat-soaked urban nightmare of the original, they went a different route, transplanting the story to shiny, glamorous LA, trading scarred, imposing Spinell for doe-eyed little Elijah Wood, and exchanging real-world grit for a dreamy, hyper-stylized gimmicky (but effective) conceit.

Now, let's not jump to conclusions, I'm sure there's a completely reasonable explanation for this.

Meet John Q. Maniac (Elijah Wood, FLIPPER) a nice, shy boy who lives a cloistered and regimented life repairing vintage mannequins. Wait, I don’t mean meet him; you are him. You are looking out through his giant eyeballs, at his scarred hands, and occasionally at his wan visage whenever he passes by a mirror. You’re also looking through his eyeballs as he stalks, corners, and brutally scalps scores of unfortunate young women, and through the charming afterglow scenes where he staples their bloody hair to creepy mannequins and gibbers at them about his mother. Remember how I said the original was so unpleasant because it never leaves the psycho killer’s perspective? Yeah, I think it’s safe to say that this is worse.

Wood is a less physically intimidating psycho, but in a way that’s worse because although he’s off-putting and weird, he's also sort of handsome and harmless-seeming and people don’t seem to realize just how scared of him they ought to be. And all the while, you’re trapped behind this guy’s eyes, screaming at people “Run!! Ruunnn!!! I’m not in control of this body but I know where it’s been!” After being disappointed by all those Found Footage films which never take advantage of the tension generated by being unable to cut away from a horrifying situation, this one finally does America proud by forcing you to sit there all the way through the whole sick process, as much as you might want out. Being stuck with this guy makes you feel responsible, guilty-by-association. You want to apologize to his victims and tell them you tried to warn them but there was nothing you could do. During a couple of particularly uncomfortable scenes, I noticed myself actually turning my head -- not because I wanted to look away, but because I was subconsciously trying to make the killer to look away. Watching murder from the Killer's perspective is an old horror gimmick, going back at least to THE NAKED CITY and becoming ubiquitous with the Italian Giallos of the 70's. But this takes it to the next level by inserting the viewer not just into the killer's murders, but his whole life.

Hey, hey! Don't drag me into this! I want out!

Pleasingly, director Franck (the extra “c” is in case of emergency consonant shortage) Khalfoun isn’t slavishly devoted to the first-person POV beyond reason; a few times during the runtime --maybe 5-10 minutes total-- he actually abandons it and peppers in a few more traditional shots for things that the POV couldn’t easily capture. I like that approach; POV when it works to the film’s benefit, standard shooting when it doesn’t. He does, in my view, miss an opportunity to turn the POV gimmick into an excuse for long, unbroken takes. Even though we’re seeing through Wood’s eyes, scenes are still edited like they would normally be; for example, we don’t see his whole walk from his car to the party he’s attending, it does what any normal movie would do and cuts from his car to him entering the building (it’s just all done from his perspective). That’s fine, I guess, but it does sometimes result in some lost opportunities for greatness. There’s a pretty great sequence where he stalks a terrified, screaming lady through a parking lot (I guess this is post-apocalyptic LA because there never seems to be anyone around) and when he finally grabs her and kills her, the camera suddenly leaves his perspective so we can see him do the whole bloody deed. It’s a fun sequence, but it would be even better had the whole stalking scene been one long, tense, uninterrupted take with the final, non POV reveal as the exclamation point on the end. Oh well, it’s still better than most of V/H/S 2.

Just in case you doubt that those are really Wood's hands.

One interesting thing about watching the whole thing through the killer’s eyes is that although you’re repulsed, it also allows him to be kind of sympathetic in a way. We know how deeply fucked up the guy is, we know his insecurities and loneliness and inner torment, and even though smell-o-vision hasn’t been invented yet we gotta figure that his apartment smells like shit with all those scalps around (maybe when they remake this in another 40 years we’ll finally get that last piece of the puzzle). We also see that part of his predicament is that he’d really like to be sane, he really would. He really makes an effort at it, but it’s just not in the cards for the poor guy. Occasionally since we’re seeing things through his eyes we’ll also see things that clearly are not really happening, which makes his actions (perversely) make more sense and also gives us a disturbing glimpse into his freaky alternate reality. Actually, I’d love it if the whole movie was like that, showing us JUST his weird warped perspective and leaving us to kind of guess at what’s really going on. But this way is fine, too.

His obvious break with reality makes it harder to completely feel like it’s entirely his fault that he’s a psycho murderous nutball. The poor guy saw his mom have sex with a sailor when he was kid, how was he supposed to not end up like this?* So when he meets a gorgeous young French girl who amazingly shares his love of creepy ass vintage mannequins, you find yourself hoping that maybe somehow he’ll pull it off, this will help him work through his issues and it’ll basically end up as a charming indie rom-com which just happened to begin with somewhat more scalping than usual**.

Interesting trivia: Every relationship that has started out this way has ended happily, and vice versa.

Obviously, the lack of a remake of MANIAC was not, in my estimation, one of the top ten problems the world has right now. But since apparently it’s some kind of deeply held religious conviction in Hollywood that things don’t really exist until they’re remade and hence it was inevitable anyway, I’m glad to report that this one is really damn good. There’s even a great, entirely organic homage to the original poster, which heartens me with the knowledge that even if the deranged psychos*** who made this remake have a different flavor of perversion from the original filmmakers, they at least share a common bond of mutual respect for the concept of some sicko fuck slicing up attractive young women and stealing their hair. It just goes to show that true sleaze never goes out of style, it just changes it’s bloody wig.

*Ah, Europe, the continent that taught me that flashing back to seeing your mom have sex basically guarantees that you’re going to grow up to be a psycho killer.

**I don’t want to spoil it for you or anything but, uh, maybe don’t get your hopes up.

***Khalfoun, obviously, but also his frequent collaborator and producer/writer of this one, PIRANHA 3-D's Alexandre Aja.


  • SEQUEL: No
  • REMAKE: Yes, of the 1980 movie of the same name.
  • SLUMMING A-LISTER: Elijah Wood
  • BOOBIES: Yep, some living.
  • DECAPITATIONS OR DE-LIMBING: Scalps, and later on some major limb loss.
  • SLASHERS: Yes, or the hands of one, anyway.
  • CURSES: No
  • (UNCANNY) VALLEY OF THE DOLLS? Way, way too many.
  • OBSCURITY LEVEL: Mid. Not sure if it got theatrical release, but it's out there.