Maniac (1980) dir. William Lustig


Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers, Leatherface: the list goes on and on. All of these names are slasher icons, ones that, even if you haven’t seen the movies they’re in, you’ve at least seen their masked faces in your local Halloween store at least once or twice. Still, there are some sick and twisted horror movie icons most don’t even know about. For example, lets take 1980’s cult classic Maniac, which features deranged female-scalper by the name of Frank Zito. Created with an uneasy touch by William Lustig and played terrifyingly realistic by Joe Spinell, Maniac tells the twisted tale of Frank (Spinell) as he navigates the dark and scummy world of New York City, as he searches far and wide for his next victim. While Frank searches for the next scalp to add to his collection, he starts to follow a photographer named Anna (Caroline Munro) and starts to double think that maybe the world of killing he is living in is over. The mental battle comes to a head as he becomes crazier than he could ever imagine. From the brutal violence and the terrifyingly realistic performance by Joe Spinell, Maniac is a complete nightmare. Plus, hallucinating moving mannequins *shudders*.

While Zito doesn’t have a “mask” or a certain feature that makes him recognizable, he is a hell of a lot scarier than most of the icons listed above. Frank is the guy you walk past on the street. The guy who looks at you funny at a red light. The type of guy who skeeves you out yet you can’t put a finger on why. That’s what makes Frank Zito so much more terrifying than any other movie monster. He isn’t an unstoppable force; he’s a man mentally deranged and unstable, a man who can and probably would snap at any moment. That’s why Maniac is one of the most terrifying slasher films of all time, in my opinion at least. This is a man who could very easily exist, and isn’t the real world more scary than the world portrayed on screen? I sure as hell think so, and no better way to portray that than with William Lustig’s guerrilla style filming. The low budget, disgustingly torn film look of it makes Maniac all the more sickening. Its the kind of film that makes you want to take a shower after its all over. With all this being said, if you’re a fan of horror movies or slasher films in general, dig a bit deeper than good ole’ Camp Crystal Lake or Elm Street, and go into the crazy world that is Frank Zito’s New York City.

dir. William Lustig
87 min

Playing at the Coolidge Corner Theatre on Saturday, September 2nd at Midnight in 35mm!!!

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