Director – William Lustig
Cast – Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro, Abigail Clayton, Kelly Piper, Rita Montone, Tom Savini, Hyla Marrow, James Brewster, Linda Lee Walter, Tracie Evans, Sharon Mitchell
Release Year – 1980
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Fans of psychopathic slashers need no introduction for this film, and for obvious reasons. Maniac remains one of the genre’s greatest slasher films of all time, and one that comes with scenes so disturbingly executed that Gene Siskel(of “Siskel & Ebert” fame) walked out of this film’s theater showing after its most infamous kill scene, which occurred early into the film(heh). If you want a truly horrifying slasher that stops at nothing and gives us all everything we want to see in such a film then Maniac is your last stop for horror greatness.
In this film we follow Frank Zito(Joe Spinell; The Godfather, The Godfather II, Rocky, Rocky II, The Last Horror Film), a serial killing schizoid stalking and preying on women in New York City. Frank Zito sees his murders as vengeance for the shameful mistreatment he received from his mother as a child, and his vengeance is everlasting.
This HAS to be a slasher fanatic’s dream film. While not the greatest slasher of all time, this does provide a hell of a lot of no-brainer sleaze and excellent kills that make this one truly memorable film for those who give it a watch. What separates this film from most other typical slasher flicks is that our antagonist/protagonist is a truly disturbed individual who reserves the right to “snap” at any moment, and deliver gory results. Watching Frank Zito con his way into relationships and scenarios was awesome, and watching him leave with more than just blood on his hands was what really made this a memorable film.
Director William Lustig really did a fantastic job execution-wise with his unique and giallo-esque sets, terrific usage of Frank Zito, and of course…the infamous usage of gore thanks to special effects maestro Tom Savini, who also has a small and extremely gory role in this film as well. The dark plot of this film is supplemented by dark and grainy cinematography at all the right places, and bright and joyous cinematography where need-be as well. The pacing is just right, and that is thanks to what we see onscreen thanks to William Lustig, and a unique storyline that kept me engaged throughout.
To make matters even cooler, this film’s screenplay was written by lead actor Joe Spinell himself. Whether true or not, I believe that to be a defining reason behind the awesomeness that is Frank Zito, whom Spinell was born to portray. This really is a simple film, and that is because the core element of Maniac is simply Frank Zito going around and killing young and attractive women. We get a few little sub-plots thrown here and there, but overall this film is sleaze first, everything else second. The more and more I learned about Frank Zito as the film went on, the more and more I felt bad for the guy. How can that be? Well…that is thanks much to a great screenplay, acting, and positive direction as well. I honestly never imagined that I would feel that way at first, but that is just another positive note for this great and awesome film that you will NEVER forget.
Overall, this is an amazing slasher film that gives us one of the genre’s most psychotic killers EVER, and comes with numerous truly memorable kills and scenes that will haunt you for life. This is an absolute recommended watch for fans of the slasher genre and all horror fans out there.