Let’s back up. It was Beyond Fest at the Egyptian Theater (finally giving me an excuse to go). I’d gotten a ticket to see Roth preview his new series Eli Roth’s History of Horror, which would be followed by a 4K restoration of Maniac. In between, he’d be interviewing Maniac director William Lustig with Saw mastermind Leigh Whannell. Needless to say, I immediately bought a ticket the second I read the email blast that told me about this.
Eli came out before the episode to introduce it. The show breaks down different subgenres of horror, talking with various directors, actors, and other horror aficionados. The one he showed discussed slasher movies with people like Jamie Lee Curtis, Stephen King, and Rob Zombie. They analyzed Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Psycho, and yes, Maniac, among others. I feel like I learned so much just in that one hour, I could have stayed there all night to binge the series. I also could have followed up each episode with the highlighted films, and it made me really excited to know I’d be seeing one of those at least.
Next of course came the interview. Since I hadn’t seen Maniac yet, it was a bit tough to grasp a lot of what they were talkign about. However, it did tell me what to make sure to pay attention to when I did watch. Either way, completely fascinating. There’s nothing like watching horror lovers talk about the genre like giddy little kids.
There was a brief intermission before the film started, and that’s when I had my shot. I saw Eli standing around in the oppose aisle chatting with someone (he’d been sitting in the audience for the screening). How was there not a massive throng gathering there? I wasn’t gonna wait for someone else to make their move and risk missing my chance. I went over, and stood nearby as he finished his conversation. When he looked over at me, I told him I was big fan and I politely asked for a selfie, which he obliged (in true Dawn fashion, it was blurry, because the more I care about the person in the pic, the worse the pic comes out). I congratulated him on the show, and told him that I learned a lot from it and couldn’t wait to see more. I quickly ran back to my side of the theater since there were a few other people gathering now. I assume they were getting their selfies, but I don’t actually know because I ran to go upload the photo (heaven forbid something happen to my phone before the pic was immortalized). I got back to my seat just as the film was starting.
So, Maniac. How much street cred will I lose if I admit that I hadn’t even heard of it before receiving that fateful announcement video? Hell, I’d apparently even seen the Elijah Wood remake (which I totally forgot that I’d seen, and that its on my movie wall) and I didn’t even know about this. Good thing I fixed that.
Released in 1980, Maniac is one of the most classic and controversial slasher movies in horror history. An incredibly menacing Joe Spinell plays Frank, a serial killer who terrorizes NYC, scalping the women he murders, and creating mannequin trophies. I might be able to attribute some of this to how much my heart was pounding from meeting Mr Roth immediately beforehand, but I found this movie terrifying. There were two scenes in particular that did it.
There’s an early scene where he strangles a woman. The expressions he was making are going to be seared into my brain’s nightmares for a very long time. That is not something pleasant to see in high def on a giant screen, up close (I was sitting in the second row so I could be close to the in person shenanigans previously discussed).
The other scene, which I’ve come to hear is iconic, was the subway chase into the bathroom. The suspense in that sequence was so thick you could cut it with Frank’s knife. With every tight close up of our victim, I kenw he had to be just outside the frame, but director Lustig took his time showing him. It was as drawn out and frustrating (in a good way) as I’ve ever seen. But that scene was particularly terrifying because it’s real world horror. As a woman, I’m wary of where I go at night, and when I frequented public transporation, I was always spooked by an empty subway tunnel. I avoided them after late hours as much as I could. This movie reinforced that fear,. in a way that I don’t know I’ve experienced with another movie.
Truly watching that movie was an epic experience to top off what was an epic night that’s gonna stay with me