**Please note that there may be spoilers throughout the blog**
Maniacs, their everywhere nowadays. The term used to mean so much more but now it's just a passing tagline that gets thrown around by anyone and their 5 year old. I blame Jennifer Beales and Flashdance for turning this word maniac into the euphemism that it has become today. I don't think that Jennifer Beales's character displayed any of the dictionary defined terms to being a maniac, she didn't exhibit any symptoms of wild behaviour that lead to violence or put her into any throws of dementia and she didn't even kill anybody on screen. She just really liked to dance and her dream was to be a ballerina and maybe that is what made her crazy. Who knows?
But think of all the other horror movie icons who earned the title of maniac, like Jason Voorhees or Leatherface. Who put in the time and work into sequel after sequel, raising the body counts, trying to find ways to make their jobs interesting and not even getting paid for it, those guys were maniacs! So the following films are for those guys and the terrific examples of what the term maniac used to stand for.
Here are 5 Maniac Movies:
5. Neon Maniacs (aka Evil Dead Warriors) (1986) - A group teens are hangin at the park at night, drinking some beers, throwing the ole pigskin around and trying to get laid, when the village people of the dead attack them! These monsters cut through the group of friends like a knife in hot butter, leaving only Paula cringing in the van with the doors locked. As the strange collection of the dead attack the van, it starts to rain and shortly after the pounding stops. When she finally opens the door, she is met by the police and taken in for questioning. The police have no idea what to make of her story, so the let her go and like any teen who has just watch all of her good friends butchered like pigs, she has a swim in the pool to top off the night.
The next morning when she goes to school, everybody wants to know what happened and a plucky young middle schooler named Natalie shows up to ask her the hard questions but is dismissed and sent packing. In the cafeteria, one of her missing friend's sister starts a fight with her and luckily the boy who loves her from a far, Steven jumps in to stop this cat fight. Booo! Paula gets sent home and pouts about not being able to go to school.
Natalie decides to do some investigating of her own, so that night she sneaks down to the Golden Gate Bridge and starts filming a door. Luckily, it's the right door because a parade of evil villains marches out. Unfortunately, they see her and chase her down but she barely escapes. Also that night, Paula and Steven have a date and are chased by this creepy conglomerate but thanks to public transit system, they escape unscathed.
Natalie eventually convinces Paula and Steven to let her help them and now they must stop this horrid group from killing anymore people in their area of town!
There are definitely some good things about this film that slightly out weigh the bad. The beginning is excellent and then it really loses it's momentum after the police get involved. The ending of the film desperately tries to rally but the scripting doesn't allow an ending that really seems suitable or plausible. Like in most B-horrors, the police are usually idiots and in this one, it's no different but instead of a pair of detectives, there's like 5 cops on this case and they still can't figure out what to do. The monsters maniacs seem to be village people of maniacs, there's a Samurai, a Native American, a cop, a neanderthal and a number of other types of costumes for this small army of monsters. The make up is fine though for the monsters and the special effects are somewhat good too. I like the green ooze that comes out of their heads, when punched or clubbed. It's an alright little time waster but not my favourite maniac movie.
4. Maniac (aka Sex Maniac) (1934) - Former vaudeville performer, Don Maxwell starts working with mad scientist, Dr. Meirschultz on a special serum that will bring people back from the dead. After successfully robbing the morgue of a dead girl and serum working to revive the girl, Dr. Meirschultz wants to shift gears and put a heart he made into a dead mobster. Maxwell tries to retrieve the body of the mobster but is stopped by a gang of adorable cats!? Dr. Meirschultz is unhappy with this failure but has a new idea, he tells Don that he should kill himself and then the doctor will bring him back to life, then hands him a gun. Good idea! ;) Unfortunately, Don decides to kill the doctor instead, but what is he gonna do with the body and what about the doctors appointments? The only thing to do is, dress up like the doctor and pretend to be him. Of course! Just as Don's transformation is completed, Mr. Buckley and his wife arrive for their appointment. Don accidentally shoots Mr. Buckley with adrenaline, which turns him into a crazed sex maniac and he takes off into the night. Mrs. Buckley is pissed and discovers the body of the real Dr. Meirschultz, that Don left on the floor in the middle of the lab. What is Don going to do now that he has been discovered and what other crazy shit can they throw in this movie to continue the story along? Lots, trust me!
This movie is a lot of fun and one of the best B-movies that I've seen for a while. I was surprised to see a couple of things in this, one being a young Phyllis Diller and there was nudity shown, which is rare from this time, unless you're watching old stag films. Anyway, as for the story, it's like they took a bunch of ideas, including Poe's story, "The Black Cat" and fused them together badly but it's so insane that it's fun. Dwain Esper also borrows footage from other films, like Haxan and Fritz Lang's Siegfried to overlay on his scenes of mental anguish and madness. The film is a real hoot, it's under an hour and any lover of B-movies or old horror films is sure to fall in love with this classic. It's a public domain film, so I included it in it's entirety here.
3. 2000 Maniacs (1964) - Two hillbillies trick 6 Yankees into detouring into their town for the centennial year celebration! Yeeeeeeeee Haw! The two young married couples, the Millers and the Wells arrive first and are greeted by Mayor Buckman, who welcomes them and lets them know that they are the "Special Guests" of the centennial and that allows them free room and board at the hotel and free eats all weekend. Hot doggy! Then, Terry Adams and her hitchhiking friend, Tom White arrive and Mayor Buckman gives them the same hullabaloo and all three couples are ushered to the hotel.
As their "Special Guests" head back to the hotel, Mayor Buckman and his two henchman, Lester and Rufus hang back. They talk ominously about their plans for their guests and decide who to apply special treatment to first. By the next day, some of the couples have seem to gone missing and then Tom and Terry discover a rock with a plaque on it. The plaque says that the town was overrun with Yankees a hundred years ago during the civil war! The Yankees slaughtered the town and were never brought to justice! Tom and Terry realize that these people are killing their "Special Guests" for revenge and that they're next! Can they escape this crazy redneck town or will the south rise again and get it's revenge!?!?!
This is the second film in Herschell Gordon Lewis "Bloody Trilogy" and it's a pretty fun little horror flick. Unlike "Blood Feast", Lewis went for more tongue in cheek humour, which really opens the film up and makes it more enjoyable. Don't get me wrong, there are some gory scenes but done with more of a comedic edge and will have you laughing with the movie. I thought the ending was great and I liked the little twists throughout the film. Campy and silly but really enjoyable and worth watching again and again.
2. Maniac Cop (1988) - On the way home from work, a waitress from a cop bar gets mugged. She fights off her attackers and runs to get away. The muggers chase her down to the wharf and she sees a police officer, so she runs to him screaming for help. The police officer immediately chokes her to death and throws her lifeless corpse aside. The two muggers freak out, try to escape but are arrested and tell the police what they saw but nobody believes them except for Detective Mike McCrae. McCrae doesn't think that the muggers could have killed the waitress because neither of them were strong enough to do the sort of damage that was done to the victims neck. In the following days, McCrae is proven right because there are a number of reports of incidents where a large man dressed as a police officer is killing innocent people for no reason. Now, Mike McCrae must find this maniac cop and save the public from one his own.
Director William Lustig (Maniac, Vigilante) really went to town on this film with a great script from Larry Cohen (It's Alive, The Stuff). This film has a toooooon of violence and the body count is huge. It also has a terrific cast with Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead, Army of Darkness), Richard roundtree (Shaft, Se7en) and Tom Atkins (The Fog, Escape From New York) as Frank McCrea. The story is interesting and it has a big ending that is not in your usual slasher film. Terrific film to share coffee and doughnuts with.
1. Maniac (1980) - On a sandy beach in the early morning a young couple starts to get ready to head home after a night of shagging on the beach. Unfortunately maniac Frank Zito is also on that beach and he's out for blood. After strangling the boyfriend while he was skipping rocks, he then murders the girlfriend and scalps her. He then brings the scalp home and puts it on his mannequin and cuddles beside it in bed. Now that Frank has a taste for blood, he heads out on a few more murderous adventures before he meets with beautiful photographer named Anna. With Anna he seems to not need to kill but how long will it last? Can Frank stop his nightly rampages or will his relationship with Anna wind up with more bodies in his bed?
What I like about Maniac is that director William Lustig (Maniac Cop, Vigilante) doesn't mess around and gets right into it at the beginning with the Frank Zito character. Zito is a killer, he's crazy and when he goes out, he's bringing a scalp home. One of the reasons, Joe Spinell's performance was probably so great was because he was a co-wrote the screen play with C.A Rosenberg and understood what his character was thinking. Also what makes this film great is the outstanding work by special effect master, Tom Savini. The kills in the film look fabulous and Savini even has Zito blow his head off in what is probably my favourite Savini special effect ever. Love it! This is a great film and after 30 years I think it still holds up and needs to be seen by horror fans everywhere.
So let's start taking the word Maniac back people! Remove it from the people who are horrible drivers, coupon cutters and the mildly peculiar and put it back on the real psychos and miscreants where it really belongs. Like you, you maniac!