Bill Lustig's 1980 film Maniac has long been one of my favorite slasher movies--it's sleazy, it features a fantastic performance from the late Joe Spinell, and most importantly, it boasts some fine special effects work courtesy of Tom Savini. Maniac isn't a great film in the traditional sense of the term, but it is a fantastic exercise in gore and exploitation. How unpleasant is Lustig's creation? So unpleasant that Gene Siskel reportedly left the screening thirty minutes into it. That's the sort of factoid that should be boldly emblazoned on the cover of every DVD version of the film.

What makes Maniac such a difficult viewing experience isn't easily quantified. There's a synergy happening in this flick, a cosmic convergence of elements that combine into a perfect storm of pure exploitation. Lustig's grimy guerrilla filmmaking style, coupled with Spinell's creepy and disturbing performance, and Savini's penchant for splatter works in concert to create a film that's greater than the sum of its individual parts. No one component is more important than the other, but for this particular retrospective we'll be examining a very specific scene--the sequence everyone who sees Maniac remembers--the Tom Savini shotgun blast to the head.
categories Features, Horror