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Maniacal   D

Wildcat Entertainment

Year Released: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Director: Joe Castro
Writer: Eric Spudic
Cast: Perrine Moore, Heather Ashley, Carol Rose Carver, Carl Darchuk, Brannon Gould, Jon Prutow, Lee Webb.

Review by Michael Scrutchin

Bad low-budget horror movies made up a big chunk of my cinematic diet as a kid and I take pride in the fact that, at 22, I haven't lost the ability to enjoy a hilariously bad splatter flick every once in awhile. Hey, I still dig the forgotten '80s gem Evil Laugh and I even had fun with Jason X. Watching Maniacal, however, wasn't any fun. Even its nonstop straight-faced stupidity elicited more stunned disbelief than laughter, which is a shame because with few laughs it's a rather unpleasant experience.

The film opens on the night that big, bald teenager Gilbert Gill (Lee Webb) takes a claw hammer to his way-too-loving-if-ya-know-what-I-mean mother and his cartoonishly overbearing father (who survives), which gets him sent to a sanitarium. A year later he escapes -- but not before sticking a fork in an orderly's forehead and disembowling a fellow patient -- and begins stalking his teenage sister Janet (Perrine Moore) and her friends. As the tagline says, "Gilbert Gill has come home to kill!" But Gilbert's escape and impending murderous rampage can't get in the way of Janet's slumber party plans even after she knows that Gilbert is on the loose and is probably the one who killed the video store owner just hours ago.

But I guess we're supposed to forgive Janet's stupidity because she's obviously our Final Girl. Well, at least she's prettier than her two blond friends with far-too-obvious breast implants and who are supposed to be teenagers but appear to be in their mid-20s. While the girls are watching horror videos (yes, we get plenty of pointless references to other horror films), a few guys show up to crash the party. There's some sex and a shower scene, but Final Girl Janet keeps her clothes on (Final Girls can't get naked; it's in the rule book). If only Maniacal had half the goofball charm of The Slumber Party Massacre, it might have been fun.

However unpleasant it may be, I must give props to director Joe Castro. Not for his direction, mind you, but for his special makeup effects. At the very least this film may be a gorehound's wet dream with all the surprisingly well-executed exploding heads, neck-slashings, eye-gougings, and disembowelings. Much of it looks ridiculously fake, but Herschell Gordon Lewis would be proud. If only buckets of gore were enough to make a horror film worthwhile. Maniacal ambles along with terrible performances from an unappealing cast, absolutely no suspense, tension, or scares, and few unintentional laughs. Maybe it's just me, but I'll take a relatively goreless but smart, scary, and inspired slasher film like American Nightmare over putrid junk like this any day.

Review published 01.16.2003.

Follow Michael Scrutchin on Twitter or Letterboxd.

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