Maniac (1980)

Maniac (1980)

“This has got to stop! It’s silly — and it’s not getting us anywhere.”

A deeply disturbed and traumatized man (Joe Spinell) goes on a psychotic killing and scalping spree across New York City, eventually dating a photographer (Caroline Munro) who may (or may not) be able to break through to him.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Horror Films
  • Psychopaths
  • Serial Killers

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that that this “indefensible slice-and-dice film” — which “has found a cult among fans of the master of gore special effects, Tom Savini” — features Spinell (“a supporting player in many more respectable urban dramas”) playing a “sicko” who “kills a prostitute, a nurse who he chases through a deserted subway station, a young woman and her boyfriend (Savini)…, and a model.” Meanwhile, “in a weird sequence in which Spinell seems to impersonate Robert De Niro, he courts [a] beautiful photographer (Caroline Munro), who for some reason responds to this fat, ugly man.” Peary points out that “the acting is bad, the script hasn’t one clever moment, and the murders are repulsive — but what is most objectionable is how director William Lustig prolongs the death scenes of the nurse and the model so that they are killed long after Spinell could have done away with them.” Peary presumably included this title in GFTFF given its cult following (ew!), as well as the controversy surrounding its release, but there’s no need at all to check this one out.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Effectively creepy sets

Must See?
No; skip this one.


2 thoughts on “Maniac (1980)

  1. ⭐️⭐️⭐️ out of ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    Joe Spinell is excellent as the title loon. Lustig was driving with friend actor Frank Pesce speculating about finding a project for his first legit film when Pesce suggested “Jaws on land”.

    This was the result; a thoroughly gruesome study in psychosis. The script is uneven and it is gratuitously nasty, but manages to be effective due to Lustig’s direction, Spinell’s performance, Jay Chattaway’s score and the gritty 16mm lensing on genuine NYC locations.

    However, it’s not a must see film.

  2. Skip it.

    This is one of those titles that I saw *only* because it was included in the Peary book. Upon finishing a viewing, I thought something along the lines of ‘Thank God that’s over.’ There’s no way I would revisit it or recommend it for any reason.

Leave a Reply