This really sick splatter film even offended some fans of the genre when it was released. Make-up maestro Tom Savini was so disturbed at what he'd helped create he considered getting away from gore films altogether.
Spinnell plays, you guessed it, a homicidal maniac. In a graphic scene that was the talk of the entire horror community, he scalps one woman. In another he blows the head off of actor Savini in the most gruesome exploding head scene ever captured on film.
Spinnell, who starred as a goon in "The Godfather," lives with a bunch of manicans that wear the scalps of his victims. The end of the film, where the manicans come to life and rip him to pieces, is memorable and scary.
The film is really disturbing—almost pornographic in its depiction of the killings—and many pointed to it as an example of everything that was wrong with this genre in the early 1980s. Sickos loved it, naturally, but horror fans that wanted more than just gore hated it. There are those of us who see some genuine black comedy in Spinnell's portrayal of the psycho.
Despite the fact that this film has its fans, it was pretty clear that the movie was really an exercise in gore pornography and was leading the entire horror genre in the wrong direction. It prompted Savini to turn down hardcore splatter movies and work more on monster films, like Romero's excellent "Creepshow."
It frankly pushed the horror genre away from slasher movies for a while. Big horror hits in the mid-1980s were supernatural films like "Return of the Living Dead," "Demons" and "A Nightmare on Elm Street."
If "Maniac" seemed like gore-porno, it may have had something to do with the fact that director Lustig actually made porno films in the 1970s.
Rated X, "Maniac" remains a pretty controversial movie. Unlike the similarly disturbing "Last House on the Left" by Wes Craven, it isn't a commentary about the breakdown of our society. It's strictly about having the camera leer over gruesome and graphic death scenes. Still, it's worth catching for Spinnell's darkly humorous performance. I enjoyed it more than the overly-serious, critically acclaimed "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer," which borrows quite heavily from "Maniac."
Spinnell, who coproduced this movie, went on to replay the role—sans the gruesome gore—in the "Last Horror Film," which reteamed him with co-star Munro.
Director Lustig went on to film the god-awful "Maniac Cop" series.
i read this review 7 or 8 years ago, and despite how negative it is , his comments made me want to scower the deepest darkest pits of the world to find it. and when i did, i was not disapointed...great horror film..great acting...amazingly disturbing, gritty and ultra violent...seeing this film created my obsession with horror films...
Posted by horrorfan on December 7, 2008
Yeah, it's a pretty sick movie but it's definitely withstood the test of time. It's a classic now. They don't make them like this anymore. They can't. Very well acted and very well directed.
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