There are a lot of discussions that can be had about Maniac. The only thing that happens in the movie is that a man goes around killing women and stealing their scalps so he can staple their hair to mannequins he has collected, and that happens over and over again. The violence consistently feels misogynistic, so it would be easy to write a review using the lens of gender as the focus.
The Maniac is played by Elijah Wood, who used to be a cute child star, but who has stepped away from his early Flipper type movies to take roles as a sex-criminal in this and in Sin City. Part of me wants to look at Maniac from the angle of: what would draw an Elijah Wood to this? What are his career choices telling us about him? Oh Frodo, Where Art Thou?
There’s also comparisons to be made to Funny Games, the movie where Michael Haneke has his brutal killers turn to the audience and implicate them in what they are watching. Is this movie – which is nonstop brutality – meant to be entertaining? What are audiences supposed to get out of it’s wallowing in dread and nihilism? Where’s the catharsis supposed to come from?
But writing any of those essays would be sort of dishonest, because while I was thinking about all of those things while I was watching Maniac, the real question on my mind was: what the fuck was I thinking? I mean, I know what I was thinking. I was thinking: I don’t have a lot of attention span, what’s short on Netflix, oh, hey, this is 88 minutes, it stars that guy from that thing, that’s reasonable. But what part of me was saying “you know what’s a good use of a warm June afternoon? Staying inside your room and watching a movie about women getting scalped.” I knew better, but I didn’t stop myself. Why? I had no hopes for this. The best case scenario is that it’s consistent pattern of murders would be somehow satisfying and that is not a very good best case scenario. The only honest essay I could write about Maniac is one whose central premise is: I am an idiot.
Winner: No one wins with this shit