Maniac is a 2012 psychologicalslasher film directed by Franck Khalfoun, written by Alexandre Aja and Grégory Levasseur, and starring Elijah Wood and Nora Arnezeder. It is a remake of the 1980 film of the same name, and follows the violent exploits of a brutal serial killer.
The film is an international co-production produced by the French film companies La Petite Reine and Studio 37. Unlike the original 1980 film, which is set in New York City, writers Aja and Levasseur chose to set the film in Los Angeles.
Frank Zito is a schizophrenic young man who has taken over his family’s mannequin restoration business after the recent death of his mother. Frank was traumatized as a child by his mother, a prostitute who made him watch her have sex with her johns. As an adult, he murders and scalps women and attaches their hair onto his mannequins to recreate his one happy childhood memory: brushing his mother’s hair before she “went out” at night.
Frank joins a dating site, where he gets a date with a woman named Lucie. The two go out to dinner and return to Lucie’s apartment, where she attempts to seduce the virginal Frank, mistaking his increasing panic for nervousness. Frank strangles Lucie, scalps her and takes her hair back to his apartment, where he attaches it to another mannequin.
One morning, Frank awakens to find a photographer named Anna taking photos of the mannequins in his storefront. Frank invites her into his store, where she is taken with his work restoring antique department store mannequins. The two develop a friendship, with Frank agreeing to help Anna put together an art exhibit using his mannequins. Frank falls in love with her and starts taking medication to control his violent urges. Frank nevertheless kills again, stabbing a young dancer to death and attaching her scalp to another mannequin.
At the opening of the exhibit, Frank meets Anna’s boyfriend Jason, as well as art director and Anna’s mentor Rita. Both mock him for his interest in mannequins, questioning his sexual orientation. Frank later follows Rita home, subdues her in the bathtub and hog-ties her on her bed. Identifying Rita with his mother, Frank voices his resentment and sense of abandonment, finally scalping Rita alive in a fit of rage.
The next day, Frank calls Anna, who tearfully tells him of Rita’s murder and of her recent breakup with Jason. Frank comes to Anna’s apartment to comfort her but inadvertently reveals his guilt by mentioning things that only the killer would know. Realizing that Frank is the killer, Anna stabs Frank through the hand with a knife before locking herself in her bedroom. Anna’s neighbor, Martin, breaks into the apartment to save her, only for Frank to kill him with a meat cleaver. Breaking down Anna’s bathroom door, Frank puts her into a choke hold and knocks her unconscious. Frank loads Anna’s body into his van and drives home, but as he opens the doors Anna regains consciousness and stabs him in the stomach with a piece of rebar attached to a mannequin hand. Anna flees and is picked up by a passing car, whose driver panics at the sight of a blood-covered Frank and runs him down, crashing and flinging Anna through the windshield. Bloodied, Frank hobbles to the mortally injured Anna and scalps her as she dies.
Frank returns to his apartment, attaching Anna’s hair to a mannequin dressed in a bridal gown. As he succumbs to his injuries, Frank suffers hallucinations of the mannequins transforming into his victims and begin to tear his body apart, finally ripping off his face to reveal a mannequin head. Before he dies, Frank sees Anna, clad in a wedding dress, lower her veil and turn her back on him. Later that day, a SWAT team breaks into Frank’s apartment, only to find Frank’s corpse in his closet, alongside his collection of scalps.