Horror takes many shapes and assumes various forms in order to affect us. Be it monsters, killers, or simple catastrophes, horror is there to incarnate both our deepest fears and our darkest sense of humor. By far, the Slasher Genre is my favorite kind of horror to watch, and there are hundreds to choose from out there. So much so that too many of them go overlooked and remain underrated. For that reason I, Manic Exorcism, gladly pull back the tattered veil to shed some sinister light upon these underrated slasher killers.
Why hello again. Come and gather around the hobo fire. Have your pick of any select hooker to scalp (they always come in plenty around this side of town), because today on Underrated Slashers we’re heading into some very sketchy places and getting extra sleazy, my little Nasties. Today we’ll be looking at one of the 80’s all-time best slasher films, William Lustig’s MANIAC!
The world of Frank Zito is a vile one indeed. One of the uncontrollable desires, lust, a cruel obsession for the flesh, and – above all else – murder. Brought to us by the larger-than-life performance of Joe Spinell , Frank Zito’s is a tale of atrocities and tragedy. A man controlled by need and ruled by his addiction. An addiction not for narcotics, no, but for something far more seductive. The addiction for perfection and beauty. The lovely victims who fall prey under his serrated knife are not innocent, at least not in his diluted sight. Afterall, they were told not to go out tonight.
The 80’s were the golden years of the Slasher Genre. Ah Hell, that decade gave birth to the genre. That was the golden age of Freddy, Jason, Leatherface and Michael Myers! When the big baddies wet the screens red with the blood of the innocent, and we fucking loved it! That’s also the decade that was pumping out slashers on nearly a weekly basis, so much so that we could barely keep up with them. Sadly, as the bigger names were given limitless sequels as their box office success rose like the smoke off a cannibal pyre, there were single films that got woefully overlooked in the great crowd of murder and mayhem. And by no means does that mean these lesser-knowns were in any way inferior. Quite the contrary, as in the case of MANIAC, often times they were either equal to or superior to the hell unleashed upon Elm Street or Crystal Lake.
In the case of Frank Zito, the blood was realistic and the outcome was gruesome. As a matter of fact, this may very well be one of the most unpleasant films in the genre to sit through. You can feel the humidity of this film. I swear at times you can even smell it. You get that rancid stench of neglected trash filling the undercity’s gutters, and the odor of cheap cologne mingled with heavy sweat just permeates nearly every scene. It kinda smells like Old Spice and spicy sausage with a hint of uncontrollable BO.
Make no mistake, this is a very dirty movie. Every minute of the film makes damn sure you understand that. It’s a film that makes you want to shower after watching it, and fuck it all that’s why I love it! Few movies can have that kind of an effect on an audience.
We do not simply watch Frank Zito’s life, we are thrust into it. We walk the darkly wet streets with him. We sit in the corner of his dingy flat, and we are up close and personal with his obscenities.
Every good serial killer must have a beginning, thus keeping that ancient riddle of nature vs. nurture alive – are maniacs born or built? In Frank’s case, we learn that he was constantly abused by his prostitute mother, and honestly, there is a wide-open door left here for us to explore the psychology of a killer through studying our nasty friend, Franky.
So, with Freddy we have a child killer who was provoked by his alcoholic father’s sadism, in Jason, we have an innocent child who was bullied, picked on, then left to drown, but who also had an overly-loving mother who was ready and all-too-willing to kill for her beloved Jason. Frank Zito was victim to his mother’s sick perversities. Zito had no supernatural powers, but he kept New York City in a grip of scarlet terror and still proves to be just as deadly as his fellow murderers.
I’ve said it before, but really that’s the kind of killer that makes us all squirm. They live in the flat down the hall, just like Dahmer. They aren’t the type we’d want to spend an afternoon with, but we would never expect to find a hidden museum of the macabre waiting behind their locked doors.
And trust me – and without giving anything away – Frank has a grotesque little shrine built out of sin itself. For gorehounds, this is a film you won’t want to pass up! For slasher freaks, this is one underrated hit you have to finally see.
Recently, MANIAC has been enjoying a much-needed revival thanks to my friends over at Eibon Press. They specialize in bringing the crassness of grindhouse classics back to life with new twists and insidious depth. Their first issue of MANIAC is a must-have for any fan of the sleazy classic. And for the truest of sickies, issue 2 promises to pit Frank Zitto against the New York Ripper himself. So holy fuck! It’s a manic dream come true! To read more on the insane awesomeness of Eibon Press please click here and see what you’ve been missing in your life.
So there you have it, my Nasties. Frank Zito is out there in the dark corners of your world. He waits in the shadows and looks out through wild eyes of craven lust. Once he decides to strike there is no escape. So be careful when you walk away from here, and always keep your head turned towards those grimy alleyways, that parking garage you think is empty, or, if you’re really unlucky, outside your front door.