Maniac (1980) Movie Review

Release: 1980, Rating: R, Run time: 87 min.

I’ve had Maniac sitting in my collection for quite some time now and I’ve always wanted to give it a watch. I’ve heard some interesting things about it, mainly that it’s pretty gory and has an epic head shot scene. Well, I wouldn’t go as far as saying the movie is extremely gory to today’s standards, but I would say it definitely has a realistic look to it (save for something that happens during the ending), especially the aforementioned head blaster. Besides gore though, what else does the movie bring to the table? Well, to find out, we need stay in and read on…

Short nitty-gritty plot description from IMDb is as follows: A psychotic man, troubled by his childhood abuse, loose in NYC, kills
young women and takes their scalps as trophies. Will he find the perfect
woman in photographer Anna, and end his killing spree?


Joe Spinell, as the terrifying maniac, Frank Zito.

Maniac is very much a one man show, with Joe Spinell, playing the titular maniac, Frank Zito. The movie follows Zito on his day to day shenanigans, which mostly involve hunting women down and scalping them, heading back home, setting up his precious mannequins and talking to himself. Everything is “hunky dory”, until one day, he meets the beautiful Anna (Caroline Munro), a photographer, who for some reason takes an attraction to Zito. Could Zito put the heinous past behind him, or is Anna just another scalp with a hot body? You’ll need to watch the movie to find out!

Anna (Caroline Munro) is a beautiful woman, who takes a liking to Frank Zito (Joe Spinell). Why, I don’t know.

I gotta say, Joe Spinell is pretty damn good as Frank Zito, especially when he takes you by surprise and changes up his character when meeting Anna. He goes from a childish man, who whimpers, breathes heavy and talks strangely, to a smart man, who is intelligent and easy to like. It’s interesting seeing this transition play out in the film and the moments where he snaps back into that man-child, can take you by surprise.

The movie also has a few brilliant chase sequences, once which involves the subway stations and a scared nurse. The scenes plays out for several minutes and the tension is ratcheted up high and leaves you on edge, throughout this entire scary hunt. Another sequence I really enjoyed, was Tom Savini’s quick little cameo. The scene plays out beautifully, resulting in quite a surprising conclusion.

Disco Boy, Tom Savini, is in for quite a surprise.

Speaking of conclusion, the ending takes us on a interesting journey, as Zito breaks down and his past returns to haunt him, in quite a graphic and startling way. I could’ve done without the cheap jump scare at the end, instead it should’ve stopped a few seconds before that. Also, I was a little disappointed that the movie didn’t spend some more time with this unlikely blossoming relationship, between Zito and Anna. There was an unusual and interesting chemistry there, that I would’ve loved to seen explored more, instead of the few spaced out minutes the two had on screen together.

Frank Zito lounging around his home, taking care of his beauties.

Maniac is a simple movie, with a straight forward plot, but efficiently takes us on brilliant, terrifying and whacky journey through the mind of a psychopath. It won’t be for everyone, but fans of early 80s psychological thrillers will definitely be in for a treat. To me, the movie invoked a feeling of a Lucio Fulci film, The New York Ripper to be exact and that to me is always a good thing. If you want to go on a trip and see what makes Frank Zito tick, then the Maniac is one maddening trip worth taking.


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