US/France 2012, 89m, La Peitie Raine/Studio 37/Canal+/Blue Underground
Blu-Ray: Metrodome (UK)
Frank runs a mannequin store, where he lovingly restores them to their former glory. Seemingly meek and mild mannered, he has suppressed maniacal tendencies. As he helps an artist with her exhibition, his murderous urges come to the fore...
1980's blutal slasher gets the reboot treatment. It doesn't stray too far from the template of the original (perhaps in part because original director William Lustig is on board as a producer), but trades in the gritty and grainy look for an altogether slicker presentation, which has more than a touch of Drive in its use of locations and cinematography. In part this works extremely well - the trick of presenting most of the action in first-person view is very effective for one thing, if occasionally distracting, particularly at the somewhat overdone climax. One particularly striking side effect of this approach is the fact that we don't actually get to see Frank's face until over ten minutes have passed, and the central performance is initially built entirely on voice portrayal.
Make no mistake, Elijah Wood gives one hell of a turn, genuinely unnerving and uncomfortably gripping. It's interesting to compare his portrayal with Joe Spinell's take on the role, as Wood plays Frank as more of a wide eyed, innocuous looking tortured soul. The naturalistic performances from the supporting cast complement him superbly, and the city locations are used extremely well.
Caroline Munro's dark-haired photographer is here substituted by Nora Arnezeder's blonde French artist, and she plays off Wood very effectively. There are some quite moving moments between them, and her dawning realisation that Frank is the unhinged killer is deftly performed.
Now the minus points. An opening piece of CGI is too obvious to be effective. Thankfully, it's kept to a minimum for the remainder of the film but doesn't start things off well. As I mentioned earlier, the climax is somewhat over-egging the pudding and does dilute the effectiveness of what has come before. Perhaps most crucially, however it remains (like its predecessor) a difficult film to like (although that is perhaps the point).
Brutal, somewhat flawed, but well worth a look (for those who can take it) for some well constructed set pieces, good casting and a powerhouse leading turn.
UK Theatrical Trailer: