Aside from being an exercise in point-of-view cinema, it's not clear why French filmmaker Khalfoun (P2) bothered to remake the notorious 1980 slasher horror. This version certainly doesn't include any of the subtext that made 80s horror so intriguing. Instead, it strings together a thin plotline as an excuse for extremely grisly violence and whizzy camerawork. That's enough to hold our interest, but it never gets under the skin.
It's set on the side-streets of Los Angeles, where Frank (Wood) lives in the family mannequin shop haunted by memories of his trashy mother (Olivo). A true psychopath, Frank prowls the streets at night attacking women and scalping them to create a sinister mannequin tableau back home. When he meets the French photographer Anna (Arnezeder), he decides to try and live a normal life. She is intrigued by his shop, and wants the mannequins for her gallery exhibition. But how long will it be before Frank snaps?
Filmed completely through Frank's eyes, we only get glimpses of Wood in mirrors and in a couple of eerie out-of-body shots along the way. But Khalfoun stirs in fantasy sequences, memories and delusions as well, trying to get us into the mind of this mild-mannered killer. Much of this is bravura filmmaking, with long takes and complicated camera angles combining with above-average make-up effects. With all of the brutality aimed at women, the film definitely recaptures the misogynistic tone of those 1980s video-nasties.
The question is whether there's anything more than that in this version. Even though we rarely see him, Wood's performance is what holds our attention, party because his casting is such a surprise. By contrast, Arnezeder struggles to make Anna ring true: we never understand her attraction to the nervous, creepy Frank, or why she would turn to him in a moment of need. But then this isn't a film about relationships or even narrative logic; it's about creating scenes that freak us out in the most gruesome way imaginable. And the film's ability to make us cringe from the screen in revulsion means that Khalfoun has done what he set out to do.
Run time: 89 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 2nd January 2013
Box Office USA: $20.6k
Box Office Worldwide: $2.5M
Distributed by: IFC Midnight
Production compaines: La Petite Reine, Canal+, Ciné+, Studio 37
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 48%
Fresh: 32 Rotten: 35
IMDB: 6.1 / 10
Director: Franck Khalfoun
Screenwriter: Alexandre Aja, Gregory Levasseur
Starring: Elijah Wood as Frank, America Olivo as Frank's Mother, Nora Arnezeder as Anna, Zoe Aggeliki as Jenna, Jan Broberg as Rita, Joshua De La Garza as Martin, Danny Hunter as Nick, Genevieve Alexandra as Jessica, Liane Balaban as Judy, Megan Duffy as Lucie, Luis Fernandez-Gil as Waiter
Like an antidote to vacuous blockbusters, this intelligent, thoughtful drama packs more intensity into a...
This biopic gallops through the career of groundbreaking gangsta rappers N.W.A, working its way through...
Basically the perfect summer movie, this lightweight drama has a great-looking cast and plenty of...
As the ghoul from the 2012 horror hit stalks a new family, this sequel's sharply...
After setting the scene with vivid characters and some insightful interaction, the plot of this...
Both the characters and the tone have been updated as a new generation of Grizwolds...
Amy Schumer makes her big screen debut with a script that feels like a much-extended...
Adopting a deliciously groovy vibe, Guy Ritchie turns the iconic 1960s TV spy series into...