Maniac (1980)

Frank is a pathetic specimen of a human being.  He lives by himself in a tiny apartment surrounded by manikins that he has dressed up.  He's got pictures of (we assume) his mother up on the wall, and some really unsettling artwork as well (watch on DVD and really pay attention to what he's got up on his wall...)

Years of serial killer movie experience allows us to surmise quickly that this guy is not okay.  And he isn't.  And the movie wastes no time in establishing this.

Maniac is an interesting movie, because while it is about a serial killer, there are no mysteries.  You know from the very beginning that the main character is a psychopath and the only thing that is up in the air is when (if?) he will be caught.

It's a very bleak horror movie, and probably at that point in time included the most realistic portrayal of a psychopath out there (to be eclipsed by Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer six year later).  It's bleak because it offers no easy answers, and because Joe Spinell's performance is so eerie and believable.  And the creepy and inventive soundtrack doesn't hurt.

As Frank continues his spree it appears that he's getting worse.  He's less able to control himself and his outbursts aimed at his dolls get more and more manic, less and less understandable.  And he starts getting sloppy.

The movie ends sadly on a low note, with a scene you are supposed to wonder whether it is supernatual, or all in Frank's head.  Up until that point though, the movie is really amazing.  It would only be another six years before the serial killer movie was perfected...

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