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Maniac: A Look Back

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Maniac was one of the more controversial titles to emerge from the 1980s. Bill Lustig’s psychological horror film walks the line between madness and sanity, all playing out within the mind of a serial killer. Much like Hitchcock’s Psycho, Maniac tells the story of a murderer haunted by the lingering control from a deceased matriarchal figure. When it hit theatres in 1980, it was met with both controversy and acclaim. While it was well received by fans, there were more than a few who had issues with its content. Critic Gene Siskel walked out before it ended, and several objected to the graphic depictions of violence towards women. Despite this, Maniac has garnered a well-deserved following, and a permanent place in history as a cult classic.

One of the unique aspects of Maniac is the time period and location in which it takes place. In 1980, New York remained traumatized by the infamous ‘Son of Sam’ murders. David Berkowitz was eventually apprehended, and imprisoned for the crimes. For a brief period, fear gripped the city, and many dreaded where the killer might strike next. Berkowitz chose victims at random and had no connection with one another. They were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Maniac took inspiration from some of the killings, and brought them to life on the screen. One of these was the double homicide of Donny Lauria and Judy Valenti, gunned down in their car outside a popular nightclub. Lustig’s guerilla style approach to shooting greatly accentuates the films gritty realism. One might even make the argument that it’s a case of art imitating life. Needless to say, any New Yorker might have felt uneasy leaving a theatre showing Maniac at night, as it would have reminded them of the Berkowitz’ killing spree.

Some of the greatest horror leads are memorable, perplexing, and induce an emotion response from the audience. Anthony Perkins in Psycho, Robert Mitchum in The Night of the Hunter, and Michael Rooker in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, just to name a few. The lead in Maniac is a tortured individual named Frank Zito. Much like Norman Bates, he’s tormented by his memories of an overbearing mother. Much like Rooker’s portrayal of Henry Lee Lucas, he’s someone to be frightened of, but also captivated by. Renowned character actor Joe Spinell portrays Zito. His performance is not only memorable; it carries the entirety of the film. Zito is deranged, damaged, and yet somehow sympathetic. He lives a stark existence of isolation, attaching the scalps of his victims onto mannequins that serve as his only company. Spinell demonstrates his natural charisma as an actor throughout the film’s duration. His performance is genuinely unnerving, and he projects the outward appearance of a social deviant. When he speaks to the inanimate objects, one gets the feeling they’re not only witnessing the actions of a psychopath, but someone who is completely separated from reality. While some of his actions in the city mirror Berkowitz, his behavior at home feels closer to Ed Gein.

As the film’s co-writer, Spinell was an integral part in Zito’s creation. He completely transforms himself into the character, and gives the best performance of his career. Considering the movie’s time and setting, there was no one else that could have accomplished this but Spinell. At this point in his career, he had mainly been a bit player in mainstream movies such as The Godfather, Cruising, and Taxi Driver. Generally relegated to roles that fit his persona as a husky Italian-American, he wasn’t exactly thought of as leading man material. He had also starred in low budget flicks such as Starcrash, which also featured Maniac co-star Caroline Munro. Spinell was able to utilize his natural talent to make his performance more believable. Spinell wasn’t just an actor from New York, he WAS New York.

The introduction of Munro’s character as a potential love interest brings out Zito’s latent humanity. Furthering the empathy the audience feels for him, there’s a deeply rooted desire to watch him go clean, and overcome his psychosis. Munro and Spinell have good onscreen chemistry, which makes it even more tragic when he succumbs to compulsion. It’s the third act of the film that fully reveals how much his mental illness and his upbringing control him. The fact that his victims are female lends to ultimately incurable weakness. He’s unable to move past the scars his mother has left, so he simply lashes out, using his victims as a substitute. Deep down inside, Zito is just a frightened child, lashing out at world.

It’s been almost four decades since Maniac made its grindhouse debut. Although it reflects the time period, it still holds up today. No matter what arguments one can make regarding its form and content, one thing’s for certain: it’s easily one of the darkest performances ever given by an underrated actor.

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Amazon Developing Stephen King’s The Dark Tower TV Series

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The Dark TowerIt’s been a while since we brought you guys an update on the planned TV series based on Stephen King’s The Dark Tower book series.

But today it looks like we have confirmation via Deadline that, “Amazon… is developing a slew of high-profile titles, including The Dark Tower…”

The series is being developed by Amazon as part of their bid to move into bigger budgeted spectacles ala their recent acquisition of the rights to The Lord of the Rings.

No further info is available at this time but we will keep you up to date as we hear word on Amazon’s “The Dark Tower.”

Are you excited about this series? Let us know below!

Synopsis:

Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), the last Gunslinger, is locked in an eternal battle with Walter O’Dim (Matthew McConaughey), also known as the Man in Black. The Gunslinger must prevent the Man in Black from toppling the Dark Tower, the key that holds the universe together. With the fate of worlds at stake, two men collide in the ultimate battle between good and evil.

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Rutger Hauer Says There Was No Love and No Soul in Blade Runner 2049

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I don’t know about you, but I dug the hell out of last summer’s Blade Runner 2049. I found the film to be a tonally perfect addition to the Blade Runner universe and appreciated how it built on the story established in the original film.

That said, there are some out there that aren’t fans of the sequel – most of all, it seems, is the original film’s baddie, Rutger Hauer.

Recently, Hauer spoke with THR and didn’t hold back on his dislike of the new film.

“I sniff and scratch at it,” Hauer says. “It looks great, but I struggle to see why that film was necessary. I just think if something is so beautiful, you should just leave it alone and make another film. Don’t lean with one elbow on the success that was earned over 30 years in the underground.”

He continues: “In many ways Blade Runner wasn’t about the replicants; it was about what does it mean to be human? It’s like E.T. But I’m not certain what the question was in the second Blade Runner. It’s not a character-driven movie and there’s no humor, there’s no love, there’s no soul. You can see the homage to the original. But that’s not enough to me. I knew that wasn’t going to work. But I think it’s not important what I think.”

Wow, don’t hold back, Hauer. Tell us how you really feel!

I’m kidding. And while I don’t agree with Hauer on this particular issue, the man has more than earned the right to think it IS “important what [he] thinks.

Do you agree with Rutger Hauer on Blade Runner 2049? Let us know below!

Synopsis:
Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.

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Ash vs Evil Dead Set Visit Part 2: Learning About Kelly, Pablo, and Brandy

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If you haven’t read through the first part of my set visit for the third season of “Ash vs Evil Dead”, make sure to do so here.

After walking through the halls of Brandy’s high school, the sperm bank clinic that has been seen in the trailer, Brock’s house, and the streets of Elk Grove (all through the magic of set designs), it was time to sit down with stars Dana DeLorenzo and Ray Santiago, who told me about their characters Kelly and Pablo through this season of “Ash vs Evil Dead”! Oh, and there’s also a lot from Arielle Carver-O’Neill about her character Brandy as well, because who can resist hearing from Ash’s daughter?

After finding out that Dana, who is from Youngstown, Ohio, is a fan of the Ohio State Buckeyes, our interview nearly ended. After all, your boy is a Wolverine, through and through, and anyone who knows sports rivalries knows that Buckeyes and Wolverines don’t get along. That being said, we managed to put aside our differences so that I could learn a bit about Kelly and what she’ll be going through this season.

I really loved Kelly’s journey in season one and two. It was very exciting to play because, in a way, it mirrored my own as an actor coming into a franchise like this. Just like Kelly was dragged into this fight against evil and was caught completely off guard, it was very similar to the actor struggling for 10 years. I was living in Los Angeles working at a bar when I got this job. All of a sudden I’m being thrown into this with this incredible franchise, with the amazing producers of Rob Tapert, Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, where a franchise that’s built upon one man, a lone wolf as we’ve said, who is the star of this show and now he’s going to have sidekicks, that was terrifying as well! But it was really cool because I feel like I got to grow with Kelly and every time Kelly did something new, it was me doing something new,” DeLorenzo explains.

Expanding on that, DeLorenzo starts telling me more about Kelly and how she specifically changes through the upcoming season, saying, “At the end of season two, there’s the parade. And if you look, you can see that Kelly isn’t happy. Kelly is the smart one of that trifecta, the ghostbeaters. She knows that evil is not gone for good, which brings us to season three. Now that she’s tasted blood, she’s constantly chasing that high. So, at the start of season three, Kelly is a warrior without a war. She wants to stay on her game for when evil comes back. Her journey for season three…evil paints Kelly in a bloody corner and sets up her to fail where she can’t do what she does best, which is kick evil’s ass. She’s put in these catch-22 situations that she can’t fight her way out of without someone she cares about getting hurt. I think fans will be shocked at her transformation [this season].”

The theme of family running throughout this season of the show is not lost on DeLorenzo, who recognizes that Kelly’s ultimate purpose throughout this series is called into question through events that she wasn’t able to elaborate upon. However, she did tell me, “It was always about protecting and staying by the side of Ash and Pablo because they are not her family by blood but they are her family by bloodshed.

When describing the ghostbeaters, she calls Ash the “brawn”, Pablo the “heart”, and Kelly the “brains”. Later, as I sat with Arielle Carver-O’Neill, I asked what Brandy represents, to which she stated, “the hope”. “They all become very protective of Brandy and are very supportive of her journey,” Carver-O’Neill explains.

I asked her to envision a world where a fourth season is confirmed and how she’d like to see Brandy’s role expanded. Pondering this for a couple of moments, she then told me, “I’d like to see her find herself a bit more. I think just because she’s a teenager, you go through that journey at that age where you are figuring out who you are and your parents, either consciously or unconsciously, play a large role in that. For her, she only had her mum and then she found parts of herself in her dad. But she’s got a lot of growing up to do and I think that’d be really fun to explore how she goes about that.

For Santiago, the character and evolution of Pablo throughout the series has a very personal meaning for him. “As a kid, I grew up watching horror films and I always wanted to be the hero saving people from the monster and I always wanted to be the person chased by the monster. I think, in this show, I have the opportunity do that every day as Pablo and I’m one step closer to becoming the superhero I wanted to be as a kid,” he states.

As for his evolution, Santiago sees Pablo as going from a pushover in the first season to someone very important and potentially very powerful in the third season. “We’ve seen Pablo go from this naive guy [in the first season] that’s pushed through the ringer to last season and…the Necronomicon and Pablo have an undeniable relationship that will never end. As we move into this third season, Pablo sees things differently. He’s not just tormented by his visions of darkness, we see that he may not be just a sidekick but also psychic! We’re going back to his family and we callback to his roots. Perhaps it wasn’t just a coincidence that he met Ash and that he himself was always destined to be somewhat of a Jefé. I think season three is where we see all that coming to fruition. He’s not just along for the ride, he’s become an integral part of the team.

Part III of our set visit coming soon!

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