Maniacts (2001)

Rating: C+

Dir: C.W. Cressler
Star: Jeff Fahey, Kellie Waymire, John Furlong, Mel Winkler

While obviously a tribute to a certain grindhouse flick – Fahey’s character is called Joe Spinell, he’s a mommy-loving psycho and the film is dedicated to Spinell in the end credits – it’s perhaps best described as an alternate universe extension of the story. What would happen if, instead of dying, the killer was arrested, sent to the lunatic asylum and met up with Beth (Waymire), a like-minded psychopath? The pair fit together like broken jigsaw pieces, despite the efforts of the sadistic staff to stop them, actions which only propel their own demise, in some spectacular ways [we particularly liked the death by high-pressure water-hose].

After their escape, Beth and Joe find themselves a secluded farm, and life seems mostly happy. That is, until Beth discovers Queen Elizabeth II will be visiting nearby – giving Beth the chance to find out if she has royal blood in her own veins, as she believes. What could possibly go wrong with two escaped serial-killers stalking the reigning British monarch? The word ‘strange’ doesn’t quite do justice to this. It’s at its best inside the asylum, with Joe engaging in random acts that border on performance art, such as a mock crucifixion. In Greenwich Village, he’d probably be a star; here, they startle the inmates and irritate the warden and his sadistic goon guards.

Outside of this setting, the film seems to lose focus, and drifts along without much focus in the middle. The ending only somewhat redeems itself in a flurry of gunfire, and will take some suspension of disbelief at the convolutions necessary. However, the two leads are good choices, Fahey looking like a bewildered puppy and Waymire (who, sadly, died at the young age of 36) equally convincing in her own craziness. It probably isn’t the kind of film I necessarily want to see again, yet it’s close to being one of a kind, and can only be respected as such.