2am Review: Maniac

I love horror movies from the 70’s to the early 80s, they could get away with so much and the MPAA really wouldn’t bat an eye and just hand out a rating and that would be it for the day.  Didn’t matter if it was R or X, the movies were released and played however long they could.   I guess I just like this movie because it’s so simple, you know where it goes but it can still be a shocker because of how realistic it can be. 


Directed by William Lustig
Starring Joe Spinnell (Frank Zito) and Caroline Munroe (Rita)

Just want to quickly call attention to a DVD feature called “Gallery of Outrage”, which has a lot of incredibly negative reviews on the film after it was released. And are they ever harsh. Hell, Gene Siskel admitted to being only able to watch 30 min. of it before he left the theatre. Why didn’t you stay and watch the rest of it, asshole? You may have liked it! Oh well, you’re dead too. I’m sure Joe has rammed numerous, long, metal objects up your rear end in Hell. Anyway, before I get started, here’s what the Philippines Film Review Board said when “Maniac” was submitted for distribution there:

To the Producers:

You are hereby informed that your film entitles MANIAC was reviewed en banc on Oct. 6, 1982 by the BRMPT at its office and was


For the following reasons:

1) Very bizarre! Take this picture somewhere else. Not in the Phillipines – take it to Satan.

2) Ridiculous, R-rated film of a deranged mind. No redeeming social value whatsoever.

3) The movie is replete with killings and the gore is too much. Not recommended for anyone.

4) Succession of sexuality and violence and goriness. Not fit for human consumption.

5) Gory, violent, brutal from beginning to end.

6) Too gory. Senseless killings. No moral value whatsoever. Made only to cater to the market of violence.

7) No entertainment value whatsoever. It’s a maniacal picture too good even for a wastebasket.

8) Excessive violence and gory sequences.

9) Not fit for saints and sinners, crazy killing, a real maniac. No moral values, killings from start to end.

10) Senseless movie.

11) A horrible picture depicting madness of the worst type – violent, destructive, homicidal, gruesome and entirely abhorrent even for adults. Films like these can lead to nothing but moral and mental deterioration.

12) It’s a crazy, evil, unentertaining, bizarre cinema picture. It has no moral, social or human value whatsoever. It is a pointless and senseless piece of literature.

13) True to its title, it’s a maniac story from beginning to end, it is fit for maniacs, an orgy of murders, horrible and no good purpose at all.

14) Picture is unfit for exhibition.

Now, if THAT isn’t a reason to watch this, then I don’t know what is. Enjoy the review.

Well, to start off, I’ll just say that I didn’t know a damned thing about this movie when I picked it up. I noticed that William Lustig directed it, and Tom Savini did the SFX. And the box art ruled all. If you look real close, he has big bulge in his pants. Now that’s some funny shit. Yeah, doesn’t take much for me to pick up a movie, huh? I picked up the regular version, though there was a big tin version of it as well that Anchor Bay put out (much like they did with some of the Halloween movies and Evil Dead 2). The only thing different was that the tin version came with a booklet and the soundtrack to the movie. I wish I picked up the tin version, but I didn’t have the fifty bucks the store was asking for it. Damn!

Ok, we start off with a lovely couple on the beach. They chat a bit before the boy goes along to get some firewood, leaving his pretty woman alone. An exacto knife to the throat and a wee bit of blood later, the boy comes back to see her sleeping quietly. Uh. . .pal. . .she’s not. . LOOK BEHIND YOU! Ah, nevermind, I knew neither of you were going to live anyway.

Quick cut to our hero. ..er, villain, getting out of bed and going “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!!” Which instantly reminds me of the Penguin in Batman Returns when he goes “I believe the word you’re looking for is. .. “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!!”” Hehe, I love that scene. Well, he gets up out of bed and walks over to the mirror and takes his shirt off. “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!!”

Yikes, that ain’t pretty folks. He’s a big boy. And ugly. He shows off some scars on his chest before getting dressed for work. Lots of mannequins around the apartment. Covered in blood. Yummy. Looks like he has a little shrine, with a picture of his mother surrounded by a lot of candles. Judging by the bloody mannequins in his room, those better be scented.

Well, he gets out onto the streets and I notice an old Coke signs. “Coke adds lift to good food anytime!” What kind of slogan is that? Now there’s a couple of good looking women who seem to be waiting for the bus. Oh, they’re hookers. Hmmm, wonder what happens. Our friend runs into the one wearing the least amount of clothes. He doesn’t seem too interested until she tells him that she’ll give him the “Ultimate” for a hundred bucks. Why, sure, go for it buddy! It’s the ULTIMATE!

They rent a room and she seems reluctant to fuck. I don’t blame her, if he were on top he’d be giving her the “Ultimate”. He asks her to model, so she does some half ass shit. He breaks out the money and she’s more than willing to stretch for him. But he changes his mind. She starts to take off her clothes, but he doesn’t want that. WELL WHY THE HELL NOT? You’re going to kill her anyway, might as well get her to take the clothes off before you do it! Wow, is she ever not looking hot now. Every bone around her neck and chest is sticking out against her skin. Gawwwwd. Well, here we go, some deep kissin. . .AND HE ROLLS OVER HER! IT’S THE ULTIMATE! SHE’S DEAD! SHE’S. . .surprisingly alive and sweet talking the whole time. I spoke too soon. He wraps his big, sweaty, meaty hands around he throat and throttles her to death. I don’t get how she can scream so loud while he has her windpipe closed tighter than MMN’s ass when Barbwire Mike is around.

Well, he walks away, throws up and starts crying. You wimp. Well, I’d cry too if I didn’t get the “Ultimate”. Oh, he decides to take a souvenir. He cuts along the top of her face. . .oh, he’s scalping her. Yes, pull away the top. Lovely image.

Are those brains? My god, they are!

Little trivia for the readers: the night after they filmed this scene outside with the hookers, someone was decapitated inside the hotel. Yikes!

Well, he has her gift wrapped in a garbage bag and taking her home. He runs into someone in the alley and they pay no mind to what he’s doing. He does this often, I assume. He unwraps the woman and. . .it’s not her. It’s another mannequin. Alright, he must’ve had his way with the body and dumped it. I’m assuming. He starts telling himself that he shouldn’t go out at night, and these things wouldn’t happen anymore. He’s talking like his mother, actually. Yeah, it’s a serious mother complex, he has issues. All the while he has a wonderful conversation with himself, he nails the scalp he took from the hooker onto the mannequin he brought in.

Well, instead of taking his mother’s advice, or his advice, I really don’t know now, he loads of a violin case with some knives, and a gun, and IT’S OFF TO THE RACES AGAIN! Y’know, he certainly doesn’t have much to do other than kill and talk to himself. He occupies his time well though. Driving around town, he sees his next victims, a lovely couple just coming from the disco! He follows them til they stop to park. And neck. And kiss. Ok, they’re just talking. At this point, I’d like to point out that the smooth man hittin’ on the woman is Sex Machine himself, Tom Savini. Trust me, you can’t miss that mustache. Go Sex Machiiiiiiine! He starts giving her a mustache ride. Too bad the big bad maniac is right around their car watching the main man mack on the woman. Hey, I’d watch the guy go at it to. Sex Machine can definitely show you some pointers. Unfortunately, she thinks she sees something outside so she doesn’t want to go all the way and gets her man to start the car and get the hell out of there. He turns on the headlights and an eerie maniac is staring back at them. The guy jumps onto the hood of the car, aims right for the guy and BLAAAM! I’m not making this up, the guy’s head just explodes in all its bloody glory, in the messiest way imaginable. That was awesome!

Mmmm, ooey gooey fun! Well, not for him, obviously

Cowering on the floor of the car, our lady friend doesn’t get away. Trust me, the guy has one more bullet in the gun. Screaming only gets you so far, lady. Usually it pisses people off, especially those trying to kill you.

Back home, our man is watching the news where they talk about him. Way to go, man! You’re on TV! He quickly gets into bed with a mannequin lady and does more of his psycho talk. Y’know, this ain’t the greatest movie in the world, but this thing shows off what a real maniac, a sick and twisted serial killer is like. We’ve had the Dahmer, Gein and Gacy movies all come out recently, showing what the lives of serial killers are like. And in some way, they got some recognition for showing what it’s like to be in the mind of a psycho. This thing came out twenty years before all of them and got shit on big time. It’s practically the same thing!

Anyway, the next day he’s out in the park and runs into a little girl on a bike. WITH HIS CAR! Nah, kidding. He’s walking and rolls over her! Nah, kidding again, he let’s her go. He does notice a young lady photographer, who I gotta say is quite attractive. But that’s enough for him. He goes over to a nearby department store to oggle at the mannequins in the windows. He must be twisted if a mannequin turns him on more than a woman. Even though hey do have . . .nice. . .round. . .breasts. . .

Caroline Munroe. . .yum!

Nearby, a couple of nurses are out for the night from saving the world from cancer and strange foot diseases. One of em gets a life home while the other decides to walk. Ironically, she opens her newspaper, which reveals the headline about a manic on the loose, killing women. She’s none too smart for someone who went to medical school. A pretty good stalk/chase sequence ensues through the streets and into the subway. She just misses it so she hides in the bathroom. He checks all the stalls except the last one and takes off. SHE SURVIVES! Nah, didn’t want to get your hopes up. She comes out and washes her face (?) and he pops up behind her and runs a very large, sword-like knife though her body. Screaming ensues. From her, not him.

Next day, he runs into his photographer lady friend. Well, they’ll be friends soon, if you know what I mean. Her name Rita, and she is a professional model photographer. He talks to her about her work, telling her what his thoughts on her work are, and all that jazz. Trying to work the mojo on her. Hey, his name is Frank Zito. WE HAVE A NAME TO CALL EVIL. . .AND IT IS FRANK! He invites her to a restaurant for me nice Italian sausage (boo yah!!) and they chit chat about art. He’s really taking a liking to her, and not in a way to get into her pants and kill her. He’s starting to lose his killing edge and is really getting into caring for someone other than his mother. Perhaps she’ll be his key to keeping his sanity. She says she needs to finish her work, so they say goodnight. GO FRANK!

At the photo shoot, Frank shows up to say hello. And then all we get is Rita taking pictures to a really horrible song. Frank tries to keep his, shall we say, “aggressive tendencies” in check. Hey, if I had to listen to that song anymore I’d just go ballistic and kill em all. He takes one of the models’ necklaces and takes off. Well, being a kleptomaniac is better than a homicidal maniac. He’s getting better.

Sadly, Frank isn’t as cured as I hoped he’d be. He follows one of the models home and gives her back her “lost” necklace. She thanks him, then goes back to her bubble bath. Hey, we see the nude triathlon! Tits, bush and ass! Frank managed to sneak in and he doesn’t look too happy. After she gets out, she walks around making a pot of coffee, and we’re waiting for Frank to jump out and get her.

. . . .

. . ..

He does! He’s got her tied up to the bed, and if you think there’s gonna be some kinky sex, then you haven’t been reading too hard. He tells her that he doesn’t want to hurt her, just to talk. He’s glad they’re back together again and I’m wondering if there’s a scene I missed cause I never saw them together before. Oh right, psycho, I forgot. He starts talking to her like she was his mother. And you know how he feels about his mother, dontcha? He gives her a little knife foreplay before plunging it into her belly. Then he scalps her (with a cool POV shot through the victim’s eyes as Frank looks on and the blood flows over here eyes).

Back home again, we get even more psycho-babble mannequin baby talk before he calls his hot girlfriend for a night out. Before they really get going, he wants to drop off by the cemetery to pay his respects to his mother. Such a nice boy. Unfortunately, while praying, he loses it and tries to strangle Rita. The chase is on through the cemetery. She nails him with a shovel to the arm, cutting him wide open. He runs after her but he’s fucked up beyond belief now. He screams for his mother right in front of her grave. We then really hear what happened, with the voices in his head telling the story. He was abused by his mother when he was younger. No matter how much he pleaded, his mother always punished him. He loved her, yet hated her so much. He starts crying again and rocking back and forth. His mother’s corpse rises out of the ground and grabs him in a little nightmare scene. He limps home and lies down on his bed, but the nightmare doesn’t seem to be over. He hears some noises and when he turns around, the mannequins are coming alive, and they’re pissed off. The goriest scene in the film takes place as the mannequins impale him with knifes, cut of his arm, and literally rip the head off his body.

Early next morning (which I’m sure is just a few hours later from when he attacked Rita), the cops show up at his apartment ready for action. Sadly, they don’t get to blast any mannequin scum. All they find is Frank, dead on his bed with a knife sticking out of his stomach. They take off (??) and the last image we see is Frank lying dead. . .BUT HIS EYES OPEN! BOOGITY BOOGITY BOO!

Well, to be honest, it’s a very violent film, and not for everyone. If you’re squeamish, go rent/buy something else, this is definitely not for you. Now, if you do want to watch a movie that lets you see what it’s like to be in the mind of a maniac, this is a great way of seeing it. It’s pretty straight forward in its approach and it pulls no punches, that’s for sure. Rating: 7/10


He’s a maaaaniac, maaaaniac….

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2 Responses to 2am Review: Maniac

  1. Marcey says:

    The poster with the boner

  2. Shaun says:

    Thank you for noticing.