It’s been a while since I’ve seen William Lustig’s MANIAC, but its memory lingers as a favorite movie somewhere in the scummy part of my brain. It’s not a slasher movie by my definition because it follows the killer the whole time, but that makes it more upsetting. Played by GODFATHER I-II supporting player Joe Spinell (who also co-wrote the movie), this maniac is a sweaty, disgusting mess living in the shadows of the flea-bitten New York City of 1980, the era of peep shows and grindhouses. He was the weirdo women had to worry about following them on the subway. He was literally the guy you didn’t want to run into in a dark alley, partly because he might be dumping a body in the garbage, and you don’t want any part of that.
To me the most memorably fucked up scene is the one where he’s handcuffed himself to a mannequin that has a real woman’s scalp attached, and he’s crying and he says, “I’m so happy.” And then later there’s one of my all time favorite turnarounds where this sicko leaves the private world of his dingy apartment, he goes into the city in the daylight, and it turns out he knows people. He’s wearing sunglasses and he’s hanging out at a photo shoot. They think he’s cool! Great movie.
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VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.