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Elijah Wood, ‘Maniac’ Director Talk Remake

8 Jul, 2013 By: Chris Tribbey


HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Long before he had the opportunity to remake the cult horror film Maniac, director Franck Khalfoun (P2, Wrong Turn at Tahoe) stumbled on a VHS copy of the 1980 original at a video store in Miami.

That cover art — showing a man from the waist down, holding a bloody knife and the scalp of a blonde woman — still sticks out for him and his lead star in the 2012 remake, today.

“Those were the days, when box art would just grab you,” said Elijah Wood (“The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “Wilfred”), who takes on the role of Frank Zito, a psychopathic serial killer. “That was a beautiful thing about them.”

IFC released the new Maniac on early VOD June 21, a week before its limited theatrical release in theaters. An eventual DVD release is planned.

Khalfoun remembers the 1980 Maniac as “powerful and shocking,” and “the empathy I felt for this totally, scuzzy character. He was horrible, and yet, by the end of the movie, I had completely forgotten about the victims, I felt so bad for this guy.”

Wood hadn’t seen the original before being asked to star in it, and he didn’t watch it until filming of the remake was under way.

“I worked to establish the character from my perspective,” he said. “It was important for me to create the character from what I read in the script.”

In the new Maniac, Zito is a mentally disturbed young man who takes over the family mannequin business after the death of his mother — who happened to moonlight as a prostitute and seriously damaged her son’s idea of how to treat women. Even though Zito attempts to befriend a young woman, his homicidal urges slowly begin to take over.

Khalfoun said he had no interest in doing a scene-by-scene remake of the original, rewriting the script to make the new Maniac filmed from the point of view of the killer, and moving the setting from grungy New York City to grungy downtown Los Angeles. He said while doing research for the remake, he read a review about the 1980 movie saying it “smells like piss.”

“[The original] really was a product of its era, a product of New York at that time, the danger of the streets, the dirt and grime that comes off the screen, it’s very difficult to try and re-create that now,” Wood agreed. “Oftentimes when people try and do that, it feels a little false and forced. There’s something really special about that era that was visceral.”

Moving the locale to L.A. was an easy call, Khalfoun said.

“If you go to New York now, it’s Disney,” he laughed. “I’m more scared under the Eiffel Tower in Paris than I am anywhere in Manhattan.”

And the filmmakers did their best to update the film for modern genre audiences, Khalfoun said.

“A remake just for remake’s sake, you can smell it a mile away,” Wood added.

Wood also praised the decision to release Maniac on VOD before theatrical, saying it’s become more and more common.

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