What better way to be inside the mind of a killer than to see through the eyes of one. Elijah Wood stars as the mentally disturbed young Frank Zito, a brutal serial killer who stalks, murders, and scalps beautiful women at night. In this French and American psychological slasher film directed by Franck Khalfoun, everything we see is through the murderer's point of view. Franck Khalfoun shows us at first hand the day and night routine of a killer and his disturbed mind. Every thought, every whisper and every memory is seen, heard and felt. The migraines of Frank blur and cloud our vision with flashbacks of his troubled childhood. Franck Khalfoun’s Maniac is a brilliant insight to a killers mind.
The first person perspective is a fascinating and brilliant way to implicate the viewer in a discomfiting way. To see in the perspective of the killer and how he goes about stalking, hunting and killing his victims gives an entirely new meaning to fear. The fear is a nauseating, thrilling and psychologically destructive headache and that is what the point of view perspective wants to implement. Being inside the mind of a killer gives us the opportunity to feel nausea, the migraines and experience for the first time the level of brutality of committing a murder. This new level of fear is what most slasher and horror films seem to lack today. However to actually never be able to see the murderer apart from the reflections of mirrors and windows does lose its novelty fast in the film. But seeing how he selects his victims, watching him cleverly hunt his prey and gruesomely murdering and mutilating them is unbelievably graphic and gives a brilliant shock factor.
To be inside the mind of a killer we are also victims to his troubled childhood, which gives us a sympathetic feeling towards him. The flashbacks are a quick glimpses of the killers past. He grew up peeping on his prostitute mother as she satisfied her clients. Constantly feeling unloved, unwanted and abandoned we began to see what shaped our anti-protagonist into becoming a ruthless killer. As the murders become more violent, so does his migraines and the flashbacks transform into hallucinations and we see more vivid and disturbing memories of his past. It seems that this is Khalfoun's way to show a more human side to our killer. With the death of his mother that pushes him over the edge into a serial killer that scalps and removes hair and decorates his mannequins into makeshift wigs in his family mannequin store.
When a relationship sparks between him and a French photographer Anna (Nora Arnezeder), we wait for the ticking time bomb of his sanity to go off. When the two have an odd fascination in mannequins we begin to see our killer in a whole new light. However as Frank tries to keep his internal struggle of madness at bay it is only a matter of time until we witness a bloody and gory ending.
Maniac is a technically impressive film with a chilling, twisted and eerie performance by Elijah Wood. Forget about his small structure, blue eyes and hairy feet. Wood mutters madness as he stalks his prey, kills his victims and keeps their hair as trophies. Franck Khalfoun’s Maniac violently shows the gruesomely cruel and shockingly twisted endeavour of a serial killer. The first person perception is an ideal and stylistic technique that shakes the very core of emotions when diving into this film of madness, blood, gore and beauty.