John's Horror Banana-nanza Episode Sixty-Eight : Maniac

That's what Stallone gets for not giving Spinell more props.
That's what Stallone gets for not giving Spinell more props.

Maniac is the most precise, well executed observation of a madman serial killer I’ve ever seen. Perhaps it has to do with Tom Savini’s extremely gratifying, realistic effects work. But I think more so, it has to do with the insanity that come sprouting forth from Joe Spinell.

Spinell plays Frank Zito, a man obsessed with his dead mother. This movie doesn’t take long to point out that Zito is the killer, as he kills a couple on the beach in the first two minutes of the movie. In his dirty apartment are mannequins, with the hair of his scalped victims stapled or sometimes nailed onto the heads. He chokes a hooker and we see him start to really lose it, talking to himself like his mother is in the room as he puts the hair on another mannequin.

Later on, he follows Tom Savini and his girlfriend to a secluded area and shoots Savini in the face, which is one of the best gunshot effects I’ve ever seen. He continues this behavior until he meets Anna, a photographer who snaps his picture. The two of them seem to get along, even after he kills a nurse in a subway bathroom. But when the two of them stop by Frank’s mom’s grave, all hell breaks loose. Eventually, Frank has to face his own demons in his apartment, with gory results.

This movie may be shunned by critics, but they’re the same critics that praise “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.” Maybe Spinell doesn’t deliver the same cold way that Rooker does, but his exaggerated craziness plays extremely well, and the gore factor from Savini ratchets up the horror factor.

While this isn’t exactly a fun movie, and it doesn’t have much for plot, it is a gratifying portrayal of a man gone insane. For a movie of this kind of subject matter, it’s fantastic.

A Joe Spenell interview.

Comments 1 comment

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Ayo-Italiano 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

this one is really a gem of horror, the scene of him with the shotgun and Tom Savini in the car is worth the price of admission alone! For anyone that says atmosphere is not that effective in horror needs to watch this movie, because that is what sets this apart from other genre movies

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