Maniac (1980)

Rating: C+

Dir: William Lustig
Star: Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro

Described by the director as “Jaws on land”, this is one of those films which you have to respect, even though it’s almost unlikable. Spinell is the titular killer, scarred by an abusive mother (the film dates from back before such things were psychologically fashionable), now wreaking revenge with shotgun, garrotte and very sharp knife. It’s all very depressingly grim, and his relationship with photographer Munro doesn’t really ring true. However, the violence is pretty convincing stuff, not least, Tom Savini’s head getting blown off, and Lustig knows its strengths are the grubby atmosphere and a very plausible psycho in the late Spinell. Not pretty and not fun – neither is murder – yet a near-textbook example of how to make and market a film when you’ve got almost no money. Obscure trivia: the helicopter shots are off-cuts from Inferno, and Caroline Munro’s role almost went to Dario Argento’s wife.