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Maniac (1980)
Movie Review by The Mortician

Maniac (1980) I remember discovering this one in the pages of FANGORIA way before I could ever legally view it. (THERE IS NO EXPLICIT SEX IN THIS MOVIE. HOWEVER, THERE ARE SCENES OF VIOLENCE THAT MAY BE CONSIDERED SHOCKING. NO ONE UNDER 17 WILL BE ADMITTED screamed the unrated ad campaign.) The pictures were outrageous and crazed: heads blowing up in cars from shotgun blasts, women being scalped, stabbed, and cut up along with just a whole lotta unsavory activity going on. I immediately went out and found the soundtrack score by Jay Chattaway on vinyl, listening to it over and over again as I imagined what the movie might be like. What a classic electronic score of haunted eeriness! Tops to this day! When I finally took in a VHS view of MANIAC in 1983, the goods were delivered and I was not disappointed! Rock star status for Tom Savini, delivering the most gruesome of practical special effects ever committed to celluloid. His head explosions by shotgun are STILL unbeatable, the only movie to give this (and THE PROWLER) a run for their money is SCANNERS. Joe Spinell was on fire as writer and star of this madness, following serial killer Frank Zito around as he descends into the abyss of full insanity, tortured by awful childhood memories of an abusive mother. Releasing his rage by slaughtering and scalping innocent NYC women (and then stapling their remains onto mannequins in his apartment), we rarely escape his stalking presence. Spinell was inspired by stories of real serial killers and how they came to be and though the plot may seem thin, look closely at character, motivation, and pain. It's all there, channeled through Spinell. Director William Lustig captures NYC of the era perfectly and the movie has the atmosphere of a carnival of grime, especially the exterior city shots and subway stalking. Perfect! Subplot with Spinell dating hottie photographer Caroline Munroe is a little odd but ties into the plot nicely with Spinell's character trying to keep his victims "forever" in some form. Peppered with porn star actresses of the late 70's as the victims (look for superstar Sharon Kane as a nurse in a cool cameo!), this film is surprisingly light on the nudity factor, though there is a bit in a bathtub stalk sequence. I also like the hooker Spinell picks up early in the film and the "poses" he has her do in the garish, tight outfit of the era she sports. And wow, what a zinger of an ending, with the mannequin creations of the victims coming back to get our psycho...Definitely the Granddaddy of psycho splatter movies, MANIAC is often imitated but never beaten, even decades later. A stunning classic of the genre!

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