Double Feature: Maniac (1980) & Matilda (1996)

Taking a moment to get back to our alphabet double feature as we continue onto the M selections. The first is a 1980s slasher Maniac followed by 1996 adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s novel of the same name Matilda. Let’s check it out!

Maniac (1980)

Maniac 1980

Director: William Lustig

Cast: Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro, Abigail Clayton, Kelly Piper

A psychotic man, troubled by his childhood abuse, loose in New York City, kills young women and takes their scalps as his trophies. Will he find the perfect woman in a photographer, and end his killing spree? – IMDB

Maniac is an odd film. Its not a particularly long one and the premise itself is rather spine-chilling. There’s this appeal of the abrupt attacks that this serial killer deals with its victims. The aftermath of taking the scalps and the whole killer by himself is all fairly well-done psychologically especially in terms of its final act to the actual final moments that are actually the best part of the film in terms of delivering its final surprise.

However, Maniac has a lot of elements that didn’t quite work for it. It could be that the film didn’t really age too well from the 80s until now or its the general lack of appeal that I’ve had lately for 80s films. I feel like its more of a personal preference element. One thing that I truly didn’t appreciate though was how each scene of killing or hunting its victim was filled with this overlap of heavy breathing sounds that seemed like it was added in afterwards to make the scene more nerve-wrecking except it was more annoying and retracted from those scenes.

Its obvious that Maniac didn’t quite work for me (or my husband). The story itself has something there so I’m interested to see whether the 2012 remake will land a little better.

Matilda (1996)

matilda

Director: Danny DeVito

Cast: Mara Wilson, Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, Embeth Davidtz, Pam Ferris, Paul Reubens, Tracey Walter, Kiami Davael

Story of a wonderful little girl, who happens to be a genius, and her wonderful teacher vs. the worst parents ever and the worst school principal imaginable. – IMDB

Having read a few of Roald Dahl’s children’s novels when I was younger, Matilda has been one that I’ve never read before although I might have owned it at some point (or it might be in a box somewhere when I moved, I can’t remember). However, its been a movie on my radar for all the time that its been released since Mara Wilson in the child actor days was absolutely fantastic. Matilda is something of an odd movie but yet its one that’s a tad over the top in all the characters especially when it comes to the actions of the principal Trunchbull, played amazing by Pam Ferris. But then, children’s films tend to have these silly and ridiculous moments to give it that extra entertainment value.

Mara Wilson is definitely the charming element of this film. As well as her parents played by Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman which was downright hilarious as they were simply ridiculous parents. They almost seem like the inspiration behind the parents in this year’s Netflix animated film, The Willoughbys (review). As she learns about her abilities, Matilda is so much fun to watch since she uses her powers essentially to payback the adults that have been mean to her. Sure, we’re not supposed to encourage the concept of revenge but its all about teaching a lesson to bullies who deserve it and standing up for people who can’t stand up for themselves, just like taking on this actual bond with her teacher, Miss Honey played by Embeth Davidtz.

Matilda is fun children’s movie. The premise is good and while I haven’t read the source material, its one that I would like to check out for fun. The cast is incredibly colorful and suitably over the top as it fits the genre.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen this two films? Thoughts?

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