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These monologues reflect a split personality; they resemble a dialogue between him and his late mother. At one point, we actually hear the voice of his mother, bringing to mind another horror film that scared the hell out of people when it was released: PSYCHO. In fact, MANIAC has more than a few similarities to PSYCHO: the mother still has a hold over the child, urging him to kill, the killer can act very normal in some circumstances, as evidenced by Frank's relationship with the fashion photographer played by Caroline Munro. And, of course, voyeurism, prevalent in Hitchcock's work, is evident throughout MANIAC.

Spinell may have inhabited Frank, but Lustig defined how we see him. Dark, with rich colors and well-composed shots, the film draws us in visually, while Spinell draws us in psychologically. Hitchcock, one of Lustig's favorite directors, knew that filmgoers were the most active voyeurs in society. Audiences like to see the little, quirky things that they are too busy to notice in their everyday lives, and sometimes these little things are nasty.

Audiences like to see the little, quirky things that they are too busy to notice in their everyday lives, and sometimes these little things are nasty.

The difference between them is that while Hitchcock implied, teased, and then released, Lustig implies, teases and then comes at you with both barrels. A good director knows people go to the movies to escape, and Lustig, like all good horror directors, knows that once they're in there, they can't escape.

From the opening shot of the film through a large pair of telescopic binoculars, we have seen through the eyes of the "maniac" before we even meet him. We uneasily enter the killer's world. After the initial killing, we cut to a close-up of Frank sitting up in bed,


the light surrounding his eyes. Was he dreaming? Was he having a nightmare about what he just did? Probably. He repeatedly expresses remorse about his killings, often directly to the victims, sometimes right into the camera. "Why did you make me do it?" This increases the connection the audience feels to the killer. In addition to voyeuristically watching his murders, and entering into his mental world, we are left feeling somehow partly responsible for the murders.

It is this uneasy relationship created between the killer and the audience that makes MANIAC an unusual horror film. Lustig and Spinell want the audience to question what role society has in the creation of killers.

Lustig and Spinell want the audience to question what role society has in the creation of killers.

While the murder scenes rightly justify the description "splatter" film, the sociological and psychological elements add a dimension not common to that genre. Without the interference of a studio, Lustig and Spinell had a free hand to do whatever they wanted. The result is a self-financed, grassroots project that explores issues beyond the scope of a typical horror film.



MARK STEINER lives in Seattle, where he works for Scarecrow Video and occasionally writes for a Hindu comic book company.
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