Maniacts

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MOVIE REVIEW: Maniacts (2001)

MOVIE REVIEW: Maniacts (2001)

Just Two Crazy Kids In Love

By Woofer McWooferson

Writer and Director: Curt Cressler (as C.W. Cressler); Stars: Jeff Fahey, Kellie Waymire; Rating: R; Run Time: 92 min; Genre: Action | Comedy | Drama | Horror; Country: USA; Language: English; Year: 2001

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While IMDb classifies Maniacts only as Action | Comedy | Drama, I've taken the liberty of adding horror because it touches on our genre as well as any of the categories they assigned it. Sometimes compared to Natural Born Killers, Maniacts is one of those rare gems the dedicated horror fan finds by accident. Loosely the story of two serial killers who fall in love while both are in the Edgemare Institute for the Criminally Insane, Maniacts is a dark comedic commentary on the treatment of the mentally ill and society in general. Written and directed by Curt Cresslar (as C.W. Cressler), Maniacts also questions what is sane and insane, noting that “being good and doing what's right, they aren't always the same thing”.

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Joseph “Joe” Spinelli (Jeff Fahey) is dubbed the Blueblood Killer for his having killed only members of elite society, arrives at Edgemare where Elizabeth “Beth” Windsor (Kellie Waymire) is already incarcerated. Known as the Hitch-Hiker Killer, Beth becomes amazingly strong when she is angered – strong enough to snap a man's neck - feat that Joe finds entrancing and endearing. Reaching out to Joe, Beth shows appreciation for the shock value of Joe's pranks, seeing a touch of the artisit in his handiwork and attention to detail. Although his stunts land him in solitary, Joe finds them rewarding enough to continue since Beth appreciates them as much as he loves doing them. 

Beth, meanwhile, has to reconcile herself regarding Joe. As she finds herself interested in him, Beth asks him if he has killed any actually bluebloods. Believing herself to be a descendant of Queen Elizabeth, it would be unthinkable of her to continue associating with Joe if he had killed actual bluebloods. Lucky for both of them, he had not, and the two are free to continue their budding relationship. Even luckier, they have a friend inside an otherwise completely corrupt asylum. Mason (Mel Winkler), an ex-felon asylum attendant, sees what the rest of the staff cannot or do not want to see: the sadistic methods of the matron and her staff of bullies are destroying any chance that these – and any of the other – inmates have.

Jeff Fahey is always good, regardless of the genre, and he excels in this multi-faceted piece. We laugh with him, we cry for him, and we want to help him. No matter what he goes through, we cannot help but feel for him. Kellie Waymire as Beth is enchanting. Small, perky, happy, thoughtful, and charismatic, Beth is the perfect partner for softspoken Joe. Leslie Easterbrook (Police Academy) plays the inmate's matron with a quite a bit of a nod to Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Matron Knull, however, is more of a caricature of Louise Fletcher's Nurse Ratched allowing us to laugh in a way that Ratched could not. There was no comedy there; only brutal reality.

Matron Knull is assisted in her sadistic handling of the day-to-day operations of the asylum by her questionable staff, the appropriately named Bull (Bob Koherr) and Carp (Simon Brooke). Meanwhile, the director, Dr. Denton Speck (Bob Bancroft), is more than happy to allow Knull to run the place as it leaves him open to pursue his political aspirations. When things take a turn for the truly dark, Mason is unable to continue to allow the corruption he sees and helps Joe escape. Everything changes when Joe returns for Beth.

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While it is not strictly horror by any means, Maniacts manages to portray the horror of contemporary society with humor, poignancy, drama, and a bit of action. Maniacts is a dark comedy, heady and worth watching more than twice.

NOTE: There is an edited version without the blood. Do not watch that one.

7/10 claws – Dedicated to actor Joe Spinell.

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments