Maniac (1980)

maniac poster 1980 movie
6.5 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 6/10
Visuals: 8/10

Gross and grimy horror

Misses some opportunities considering the perspective it takes

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Maniac

Studio:  Magnum Motion Pictures Inc.

Genre(s):  Horror/B-Movie

Release Date(s):  May 10, 1980 (Cannes)/January 30, 1981 (US)

MPAA Rating:  R

maniac 1980 frank zito subway kill joe spinell kelly piper

I would have given you my subway token!

Frank Zito (Joe Spinell) is a troubled man.  Molested as a child and becoming violent angry when aroused, Frank searches the streets for women to lash out at and kill…and Frank is getting worse.  When he becomes obsessed with a photographer named Anna D’Antoni (Caroline Munro), Anna seems to genuinely like Frank…which causes a problem for Frank.  Frank is being pushed to the breaking point, and Anna is in danger.

Directed by William Lustig, Maniac is a grindhouse slasher horror thriller.  Star Joe Spinell wrote the screenplay with C.A. Rosenberg.  The movie had mixed reviews but gained a cult following over the years.

Maniac is a movie that I always skipped over.  I would start it and quit.  It felt like I’ve seen Maniac a bunch as a fan of horror…it didn’t seem like something that could offer anything new.  Finally watching Maniac, I didn’t really find anything new, but I did find a movie I didn’t quite expect.

maniac frank zito anna dantoni caroline munroe joe spinell

He’s a charmer…

The story is oddly almost entirely from the perspective of the killer.  The visions and the psychology of the “maniac” is on display, but attempts to bring logic to a killer like Frank is difficult since he is insane…and I don’t know how you can adequately represent someone this warped.  The “kills” are generally from the perspective of the victims and it feels like if the theme of the movie was the killer, it should have been kills from his perspective…which would have been really hard to handle.

The relationship between Caroline Munro and Joe Spinell seems unrealistic.  The movie tries to promote that they are both artists and that is the connection, but even their meeting is off.  Of course Anna’s nice treatment of Frank pushes him over the edge and she pays for it…she survives, but you can’t imagine that she isn’t forever wrecked as well.

maniac ending frank zito killed

Scream if you think Frank’s a fun guy to hang out with!

The movie is gory.  It has special effects by special effects master Tom Savini (who also plays a victim of Frank’s attack).  The film has that dirty grindhouse look and that is always a plus in my book…especially when you are looking from the perspective of a character who is mentally crumbling.

Maniac was better than I expected, but I didn’t find it very revolutionary.  The movie has some compelling moments and takes a different perspective to a horror film for the time.  The movie is not for everyone and is a rough watch…but it is what you’d expect from a title like ManiacManiac was remade in 2012 by Franck Khalfoun and starring Elijah Wood.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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