I saw Maniac on opening night in 1980. My dad took my brother and myself to see it despite it playing as a defacto X rated film with no one under 18 being allowed. We went we loved the gore but it never really hung with us. We watched it when it was on VHS because we were watching and rewatching everything in those days, but we never were in love with the film. With the film playing Monsterama we decided to see it again for the first time in decades.
Despite having a some shocking violence, the exploding head for example and a stellar performance from writer Joe Spinnell Maniac is a bad film. There is nothing here except the stalking and killing, which while well staged are sequences that belong in a film that has an actual plot.
The lack of a narrative is what kills this film. Outside of some women dying, not much happens. Worse nothing in it makes sense. From Spinell killing a girl in a hotel room where he is seen by lots of people, to his developing a relationship with Caroline Munroe in ways that make no sense, to a late night trip to a grave yard, things happen because they do not could or would. Making everything worse none of the pieces hang together, and the film simply feels like pieces of a longer better film, or more likely parts of four or five other films.
Yes Spinell is truly amazing, and his writing of many scenes makes me wonder what he could have done if he wrote other films, but the film as a whole is... not so much bad bad but incredibly dull. It doesn’t help that the effects have aged badly. I say this as someone who really watched the gore sequences over and over again to see how Tom Savini did them, now they look terrible.
Looking at the film 40 plus years on I’m left to conclude that it’s a historically important film that isn’t really worth the effort to actually watch.
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