Maniac (1980)

Starring Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro, Abigail Clayton, Kelly Piper, Rita Montone, Tom Savini, Hyla Marrow

Directed by William Lustig

Expectations: High. Lustig, Savini, how can it not be good?


Sorry to those hoping for rainbows and unicorns, Maniac delivers manic thrills and nothing else. As long as you’re OK with that, and you’re down for some brutal Tom Savini FX work, then you should enjoy Maniac. It’s a unique take on the slasher film, and one that I won’t soon forget. This was William Lustig’s first legitimate film (after a few legitimate pornos), and it’s a frontrunner for the best thing I’ve seen from him. Maniac Cop and its sequel are both superb, and Vigilante is fun, but Maniac has a guerrilla quality to it that makes it seem just as seedy and grimy as the film’s main character, Frank.

The plot of Maniac is rather sparse, instead doing its best to deliver a character study of a madman. What this equates to is watching Joe Spinell stalk and brutally kill female victims for most of the movie. There’s no cops trailing him, or any real story to speak of. Even the dialogue scenes are all somewhat meaningless. This makes the film feel gratuitously sadistic, and it’s rather hard to watch at times. A slight story comes in during the second act, but even this is just a means to provide Frank with another victim, and ultimately bring us to the climax of the film. It does add some interesting situations for Frank, and ones that allow us to further explore his character, but the film still retains its initial structure. This might sound like it would be boring and hard to get through, but the film is incredibly watchable thanks to Spinell’s perfect portrayal of the madman, Lustig’s inspired direction, and Savini’s gory, ultra-realistic FX.

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Weekend of Horrors Day 2

Saturday had a little more going for it than the previous day, both in terms of size and content. It looked more like an actual convention instead of senior’s bingo night at the Elk’s lodge. The halls were a lot more crowded and all of the freaky motherfuckers came out of the woodwork, displaying some pretty impressive amateur makeup FX skillz… Kind of awesome unless you’re in urgent need of some restroom relief while caught behind a guy in a zombie mask hauling fake body parts in a wheelbarrow down the hall at a snail’s pace.

Will and I spent most of the day checking out some very interesting panels. Greg Nicotero kicked off the day’s festivities with a look at his recent work from the upcoming Walking Dead TV series. Having read some of the books, I still had only very limited interest in the series as I’m not much of a TV watcher. After seeing a few screened clips however, I am willing to give it a shot, as Greg’s work looks pretty impressive here. AMC is obviously giving him a little more leeway than would normally be allowed for a television series in terms of gore.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: Maniac Cop (1988)

Maniac Cop (1988)

Starring Bruce Campbell, Tom Atkins, Laurene Landon, Richard Roundtree, William Smith, Robert Z’Dar

Directed By William Lustig


 

As the 1980’s were drawing to a close, video store horror aisles were beginning to lose some of that blood-splattered luster and morbid creativity that spurred a whole generation of gleefully degenerate filmmakers. Both the Friday the 13th and the Halloween series had been putting the slasher formula through its paces and although it never gets old watching a half-naked camp counselor run through the woods only to be beheaded by some machete wielding nutjob, horror fans were begging for a breath of fresh air.

Rather than resting on their laurels and being quite content with cranking out yet another by-the-numbers slasher film, William Lustig and famed B-grade writer Larry Cohen took a few of your typical genre conventions and stood them on their heads. Trading in the usual spooky woods for the dark alleys of New York City and the typical abused child turned homicidal psychopath for a warped civil servant, Lustig and Cohen were able to escape the standard ho-hum frills of the genre and bring a little something extra to the table. As a result, Maniac Cop offers not only a fresh take on a tried and true formula but also offers a unique look at police brutality taken to its nastiest and most horrendous extremes.

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Vigilante (1983)

Vigilante (1983)
AKA Street Gang, Street Fighters

Starring Robert Forster, Fred Williamson, Richard Bright, Rutanya Alda, Don Blakely, Joseph Carberry, Willie Colón, Joe Spinell, Carol Lynley, Woody Strode

Directed by William Lustig

Expectations: Moderate. I was hoping that I’d enjoy this as much as Walking the Edge.


Vigilante opens with Fred Williamson walking out of complete darkness. He has a cigar in his mouth and ominous, droning electronic music builds in the background. Then he speaks…

“Hey. I don’t know about you guys, but me, I’ve had it up to here. There are some 40-odd homicides a day on our streets. There are over two million illegal guns in this city. Man, that’s enough guns to invade a whole damn country with. They shoot a cop in our city without even thinking twice about it. Ah, come on. I mean, you guys ride the subway. How much more of this grief we gonna stand for, huh? How many more locks we gotta put on our goddamn doors? Now we ain’t got the police, the prosecutors, the courts or the prisons. I mean, it’s over. The books don’t balance. We are a statistic. Now I’m telling you… when you can’t go to the corner and buy a pack of cigarettes after dark because you know the punks and the scum own the street when the sun goes down and our own government can’t protect its own people then I say this pal, you got a moral obligation. The right of self-preservation. Now you can run, you can hide, or you can start to live like human beings again. This is our Waterloo, baby! If you want your city back… you gotta take it. Dig it? Take it!”

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