HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
 
Newest Reviews
Unearth
Circumstantial Pleasures
Tyger Tyger
Filmmaker's House, The
Man Standing Next, The
Rock, Paper and Scissors
Batman: The Long Halloween Part One
Salaam Bombay!
Boss Level
My Heart Can't Beat Unless You Tell It To
Edge of the World
PTU
Superdeep
Insignificance
Treasure City
Piccadilly
Parallel
Invasión
Shiva Baby
Flowers of Shanghai
War and Peace
Agony
Merrily We Go to Hell
Ellie & Abbie (& Ellie's Dead Aunt)
Amusement Park, The
Lemebel
Hands of Orlac, The
Cats
Death has Blue Eyes
Caveat
Kala Azar
Duplicate
Flashback
Gunda
After Love
Earwig and the Witch
Zebra Girl
Skull: The Mask
Vanquish
Bank Job
   
 
Newest Articles
Sherlock vs Ripper: Murder by Decree on Blu-ray
That Ol' Black Magic: Encounter of the Spooky Kind on Blu-ray
She's Evil! She's Brilliant! Basic Instinct on Blu-ray
Hong Kong Dreamin': World of Wong Kar Wai on Blu-ray
Buckle Your Swash: The Devil-Ship Pirates on Blu-ray
Way of the Exploding Fist: One Armed Boxer on Blu-ray
A Lot of Growing Up to Do: Fast Times at Ridgemont High on Blu-ray
Oh My Godard: Masculin Feminin on Blu-ray
Let Us Play: Play for Today Volume 2 on Blu-ray
Before The Matrix, There was Johnny Mnemonic: on Digital
More Than Mad Science: Karloff at Columbia on Blu-ray
Indian Summer: The Darjeeling Limited on Blu-ray
3 from 1950s Hollyweird: Dr. T, Mankind and Plan 9
Meiko Kaji's Girl Gangs: Stray Cat Rock on Arrow
Having a Wild Weekend: Catch Us If You Can on Blu-ray
The Drifters: Star Lucie Bourdeu Interview
Meiko Kaji Behind Bars: Female Prisoner Scorpion on Arrow
The Horror of the Soviets: Viy on Blu-ray
Network Double Bills: Tarka the Otter and The Belstone Fox
Network Double Bills: All Night Long and Ballad in Blue
Chew Him Up and Spit Him Out: Romeo is Bleeding on Blu-ray
British Body Snatchers: They Came from Beyond Space on Blu-ray
Bzzzt: Pulse on Blu-ray
The Tombs Will Be Their Cities: Demons and Demons 2 on Arrow
Somebody Killed Her Husband: Charade on Blu-ray
   
 
  Maniac Jaws on Land
Year: 1980
Director: William Lustig
Stars: Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro, Tom Savini, Gail Lawrence, Kelly Piper, Rita Montone, Hyla Marrow, James Brewster, Linda Lee Walter, Tracie Evans, Sharon Mitchell
Genre: Horror, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 2 votes)
Review: December in New York, just before Christmas, and Maniac Frank Zito (Joe Spinell) is on the loose. He kills women and scalps them, and no one is safe. Typical slasher set-up, but here the difference lies in the focus. We don’t have a victim as a lead, but the killer. We see into his den of foulness, we hear the conversations in his head (revolving entirely around his bizarre obsession with his Mother) and we see his routine during the build-up to his crimes. Normally, the running time would be filled with a traditional Cop character hot on Zito’s trail, trying to catch him before he kills again. Here, there seems to be no hero in the wings, and the police are instead relegated to the news bulletins we watch along with Zito.

So, December then. Cold, right? Not in Maniac it seems. The opening scene, in tribute to Jaws, is a young couple sleeping rough out at the beach. Rather than become victims to the weather, they are Zito’s first. He chooses his kills at random, often making split-second decisions that have little or no common theme. He truly is a murderer without an obvious motive to anyone not inside his world. You might be getting into your car to head home, you might be a prostitute offering ‘The Ultimate’ or someone in-between. There is no pattern, and it’s a powerful and frightening idea – that there is nothing you can do to avoid being selected. This isn’t a ‘stay out of the woods’ or ‘don’t go into the cellar’ movie, this is a ‘cross your fingers and hope you aren’t a nice looking young lass with a good head of hair’ movie.

Back at his pad, it’s nice to see that the Maniac has a Christmas tree (albeit poorly decorated) in amongst all the usual psycho paraphernalia like a shrine to his abusive mother, a collection of female scalps and an assortment of disconcerting child’s dolls. It’s little touches such as this that add a strange sense of normality to the proceedings. The killer is not merely a faceless shadow in the darkness, he is instead a social outcast and loner. Nothing unusual there, but here is also a man with a deranged home life. At times he is reluctant in doing his work, which seems to be collecting mannequins and finding real scalps to replace the fake hair. He does not relish the murders, nor does he simply pounce on his prey every time. Some, like the prostitute he chokes to death, are obviously attractive to him alive, yet he is compelled by forces beyond his control to kill them. After the choking, he is immediately sick with disgust. Others he stalks for longer periods of time, playing out a lengthy game to which we are a party at every turn.

The strangest section of the film is also the least brutal. Zito manages, with nary an explanation, to ingratiate himself into the social circle of a successful and remarkably attractive female photographer by merely turning up at her house in a cravat and a big pair of specs. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t end well.

Spinell’s character is, of course, a deeply disturbed person. He also has a disconcerting habit of grunting and breathing heavily the whole time, like a fat guy at a barbecue. Alongside the startlingly dated soundtrack (first-timer Jay Chattaway) the routine of a Zito point-of-view shot, whilst he’s watching his prey and moaning, turns the viewer themselves into the stalker. Luckily, we exit this POV shot when the killing is underway, and are instead treated to extreme close-ups of eyeballs rolling around in their sockets and knives being plunged into necks.

As one might expect from a slasher flick which Tom Savini has more than just a hand in, the death sequences are inventive and suitably grisly. For proof positive of their quality, check out the (infamous) shotgun through the windscreen killing around the 27 minute mark – a great effect, a great screen death, and you can see why Savini is considered such a legend of the low-budget horror scene. Throughout the rest of the film blood flows just as readily. Scalps are scalped and people scream as Zito sticks a variety of things in their bodies in a variety of painful looking ways. Along the same lines as so many films of this genre, sex is what gets you in trouble. The couple at the beach, hookers, a couple in the back seat of a car – all are victims. Hormone fuelled teenagers are being sent a clear message by these films. That sex is incredibly dangerous, morally wrong and you will get sliced apart by a fat loony if you succumb.

The film saves the best for last, naturally. The denouement sees Frank come face to face with his demons in a misty graveyard, before returning home to be butchered by his army of mannequins in spectacular fashion. Undeniably a slasher flick at heart, this is also a film that offers a new perspective in a well trodden genre. There is no hero, and despite his lengthy monologues and clearly tortured background the only sympathy lies with the poor girls that die at Zito’s hands. Suitable justice is meted out eventually, although the final frames may tell of a different story to come.



One thing to note about the Anchor Bay DVD version I have is that it comes with an excellent four-man commentary team – Director William Lustig, Effects man Tom Savini, Editor Lorenzo Marinelli and Assistant Camerman Luke Walter, self-proclaimed ‘pal’ of the sadly dead Spinelli - which explains the films origins as being ‘Jaws on Land’. It's interesting to listen to the trials and tribulations and stories that emerge from the making of a low budget horror flick of this nature.
Reviewer: Ted Forsyth

 

This review has been viewed 5131 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 
Review Comments (0)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which star probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Darren Jones
Enoch Sneed
  Desbris M
Andrew Pragasam
  Paul Tuersley
  Chris Garbutt
  Sdfadf Rtfgsdf
   

 

Last Updated: