Five Days of Double Features, Extra-Depraved Edition: Pieces (1983) and Maniac (2012)


These two are paired up because they're thematically similar, even though they couldn't be more different stylistically. We've discussed Pieces before, and I have little to add, other than that despite the misogyny and extreme violence, it's a total hoot. I first saw this during a dusk-till-dawn horror-thon at a vintage theater in Hollywood on Halloween, and even though it was two a.m, the audience was virtually in hysterics. How many movies have you been to that ended in applause? So that was the ideal setting, but here we'll be using Hulu Streaming instead so forget it.


I put on Maniac last week because it showed up in the Netflix Streaming recommendations. I had no intention of finishing, because I generally don't like the mean-spirited, surgically graphic torture sessions that pass for horror movies these days. And I figured there was no way a remake of one of the nastiest films of a nasty genre could be any good, but I was curious, and quickly got into its unique charms.

If you haven't seen the infamous 1980 film its based on, then at least you won't have a basis of comparison, because it's almost too different to compare. Both films are products of their times. The setting here is downtown LA, which is not gritty nor intimidating, or even all that urban-looking. It's trying to copy the ugliness and hopelessness of the Times Square-set original, but the setting is too plain. And Elijah Wood is equally plain, delivering his lines in monotone from offscreen. It's supposed to be a subdued performance, I know, but he's the only developed character in the movie so there isn't much to engage with. Another difference with the update is that it feels necessary to explain why he's a maniac, with childhood flashbacks of his prostitute mother that are too cliched and outrageous to be effective or believable.

What probably saves this is the POV gimmick, even though it could have been handled with more finesse, and the filmmakers sporadically shift from it when dramatically beneficial. But it's a trick you don't often see sustained through an entire movie, and it's more interesting than any of the shorts in  the two similarly-styled V/H/S film anthologies, which are simply childish. Anyway, nothing great here, but worthwhile, and big content warning for this one; it goes far beyond an R rating.

(click posters to link to movie streams)

No comments: