Film: Maniac ****
Running Time: 87 mins
Director: William Lustig
Starring: Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro, Abigail Clayton, Kelly Piper
Reviewer: Adam Wing
Upon its release in 1980, Maniac was accused by critics of taking the slasher film and its accompanying gore effects to new, unpleasantly graphic heights - I’m sure special effects maestro Tom Savini (Dawn of the Dead) is really proud of that accolade. Frank Zitto (Joe Spinell) a man who was abused by his mother as a child, takes out his frustrations on innocent young women. He scalps them and uses their hair to make wigs for his mannequins - everybody’s got a hobby, right?
Maniac was directed by William Lustig, who went on to direct the Maniac Cop series - so you get an idea of what to expect from this classic horror vehicle - co-starring Caroline Munro and Gail Lawrence. Frank Zitto (The Godfather) makes for compulsive viewing as the deeply disturbed psycho of the piece, and it’s interesting to note that just before his death he received financing for a belated follow up to this underrated gem.
Tom Savini is undoubtedly the star of the show, utilising his special effects know-how to gloriously gruesome effect. He even makes an appearance in the film, and quite naturally saves the best showcase of his talent for himself, there’s no denying you’ll be blown away by his relentless commitment to bloodshed and brutality.
Jay Chattaway composed the score for the Manic Cop series and lost favourite Ambulance amongst others, and with Maniac he riffs on John Carpenter’s Halloween theme to great effect. William Lustig successfully builds suspense throughout, calling on Savini to take over when the time is right with his industrious effects showcase. Maniac is a creepy affair, helped along by a wonderfully twisted lead performance. Talking of twists, it’s the twist in the tale that sets Maniac apart from its contemporise. Perverse, contorted and drowning in a sea of gruesome imagery, Maniac is an 80’s horror classic worthy of its title.
Depraved perhaps, but he did warn you not to go out tonight…