• A Review Page For Those Movies You Watch At Home!

    Couch Potato Movie Reviews is, obviously, a blog that exclusively reviews movies. What makes this blog different is the fact that all of the films we are reviewing are all movies that are available on home movie rental companies such as Redbox, Netflix, Blockbuster, and your quickly disappearing neighborhood rental store. This blog is designed to take a more detailed look at those movies that either were sent straight to DVD, received a very limited release in the theaters, or were distributed through the art house or film festival circuit. We will also review those big Hollywood films, but only after they are available for home viewing.

    All the reviews are written by fans of the great art of film making rather than some newspaper reviewer or stuffy film student. We don’t know everything about film but we do know what we like, and we are more than happy to share our opinions with you. What you do with those opinions are totally up to you, although comments are welcome and encouraged.

    Each film review has a one to five star rating at the end of the critique. Here is what those star ratings mean for you couch potatoes:

    * * * * * : Five stars: go and buy this one, don’t just rent it!

    * * * * : Four stars: put this at the top of your rental list.

    * * * : Three stars: average, not bad just not great either.

    * * : Two stars: only rent if you have to see everything.

    * : One star: don’t waste your time with this.

Maniac

TITLE: Maniac

YEAR: 1980

GENRE: Horror

Periodically the news will report on some distressed person who lashes out against society by committing multiple acts of murder. Horror films has used the psychopathic killer as a staple in their arsenal, but usually adds some type of supernatural element such as an undead zombie-style killer (Friday The 13th), a malevolent spirit from hell (Hellraiser), or a killer who attacks his prey in unconventional ways (A Nightmare on Elm Street). Far fewer films make the killer a normal living, breathing individual that makes the threat of a killer as close as your next door neighbor. Maniac is one of those films that makes its antagonist as realistic and frightening as the worst case on the evening news, a combination of great acting and surprisingly good film making makes this project one of the most soul crushing films ever released in the horror genre.

Frank Zito (played by Joe Spinell) is a middle aged landlord of a New York City apartment complex who is also a schizophrenic serial killer. Frank’s mother was habitually abusive to him but he loved her dearly, and as a token of his affection for his deceased mother he kills women, scalps them, and keeps the hair pieces on mannequins spread about his apartment. Joe spots beautiful photographer Anna D’Antoni (Caroline Munro) shooting pictures in the park, so he attempts to befriend her as a potential victim. Anna introduces Frank to one of her models named Rita (Gail Lawrence). After killing Rita, Frank takes Anna to his mother’s grave after the funeral and attempts to kill Anna only to be thwarted in the effort. Frank returns to his apartment only to have terrifying visions of his former victims and his mother haunting him. With his grip on reality virtually gone, Frank has to make some terrifying decisions that will shake The Big Apple to its urban rot core.

Maniac is a disturbing horror flick that works superbly due to its true to life nature and some great performances. First of all, the film does have a realistic feel as true psychopathic killers like Frank Zito have existed throughout history and director William Lustig’s (the Maniac Cop trilogy) take is realistic, gritty, and surprisingly disturbing. Spinell delivers one of the greatest screen portrayals of a truly disturbed individual and the genuine creepiness and psychopathic nature rivals Anthony Hopkins’ performance in Silence Of The Lambs. Munro (most known for being a Bond girl in The Spy Who Loved Me and a lead in numerous Hammer films) also does a pretty good job as the photographer. The special effects delivered by Tom Savini (Creepshow, Friday The 13th (1980)) are splatter worthy especially when a head explodes courtesy of Frank’s shotgun. The delusions and hallucinations from Frank are a true mind screw and are gruesomely effective. This film is not for most horror fans as the physical and psychological horror of Maniac is truly disturbing and way to close to home for most viewers.

True serial killer John Wayne Gacy contacted Spinell before his death in 1989 asking him to portray Gacy in a documentary-style film due to his true to life performance in Maniac. A theme song was independently presented for this film but was turned down because of its overtly happy beat; the words were later changed and the song ‘Maniac” was later picked up to be used in Footloose and became one of the biggest hits of 1983. Maniac is not for the teeny bopper horror crowd but rather fans of extreme cinema that combines nasty special effects and an honestly unsettling look at an extremely disturbed mind. This one is only for the most extreme horror fan and owners of a strong stomach, but if you fit that ticket Maniac is a recommended viewing.

* * * *

–Mark

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