Saturday, February 24, 2018

L.A. Maniac (2011)

Anything distributed by Troma is bound to be a weird experience! Good? Not necessarily, but I try to give everything from this company a fair chance, because I know those behind the scenes of such pictures are usually amateur filmmakers who are just starting out, likewise giving jobs to new actors who might have trouble finding roles at this stage in their career. Sometimes this trust ends up sort-of misplaces when it comes to such dreck as Rock and Roll Space Patrol (despite that film's somewhat brilliant tangent at the end), but I can safely say it hasn't been with today's film...

Kristy is a young woman who's just moved to the promising Los Angeles, staying with her unpredictable relatives, but not all is going how she'd planned, as a menacing killer stalks the streets, and is eyeing her as his latest conquest...

L.A. Maniac is an oftentimes effective little horror film. It's not too long, and succeeds pretty well in what it set out to do, with its portrait of a serial killer's twisted psyche, with little touches of Cinderella, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. While the movie's tone is almost surreal at times, the plot is kinda creepy in a very real world way, in that it's showing what could happen if by pure chance you caught the attention the wrong random person. The villain is simultaneously uncomfortable to watch, and borderline hilarious at times, with my favourite moment being when he refers to dolphins as 'water-bound Lassie'.

The plot moves along at an ok pace. It's not really story heavy, mainly just following these characters as stuff happens. Don't take that to mean it's boring though, because it's not, most of the time anyway. I was a bit disappointed in the ending though. It's not necessarily what happens that bugged me, but what didn't happen. There's an important scene that's completely offscreen, and there's not really a proper conclusion. It's partially effective in a TCM kind of way, but it also feels like a bit of a cheat, like you watched the whole movie for nothing.

There's variety in the death scenes, with stranglings, stabbings, beatings, and more. My favourite was the plastic bag kill, which was a great workaround for budget. With the bag over the actresses head, it covers the fact that they're not really stabbing it without the need for a possibly fake effect, and doubles as being a bit creepy in how we're not seeing the character's face as it gets bloodily mutilated. Less is more, sometimes a lot more! Some of the more gruesome special effects looked a bit too over-the-top for me, and sometimes a bit unconvincing, but at least the movie tries to be creative, instead of having every death be the same. And if I have to pick a specific example, L.A Maniac looks better than Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, for whatever that's worth.

The editing is chaotic in a mostly good way. While at first it seems like just bad editing, I felt it had a deliberately disorienting effect. Not sure if it works all the time, but I appreciate it. There were some moments where it seems like you're left wondering if what we're seeing is actually happening, or all in the killer's head.

The soundtrack is ok. The score is quite good in places, having a sort-of industrial ambient sound, but the licensed songs used are not really my type. Your mileage may vary on that, depending on how much you enjoy death metal.

Paul Tobin is like a demented Michael Gross (read: Michael Gross in half of his non-Family Ties roles) in his turn as the titular serial killer, and he's got a fun and creepy presence, as well as a lot of the funniest lines. While her character doesn't get a whole lot to really do, I liked Celeste Martinez's performance as a sweet reserved country girl who also happens to like partying and heavy metal!

It's always neat seeing Dolores Quintana in anything, and while she doesn't get the chance to take part in the action proper, she does get a chance to show off her singing skills, which is lovely. She's also hilarious in her second scene! A shame she doesn't appear more.

I recommend L.A. Maniac if you're into seedy horror flicks, and if you don't mind super low budget shot-on-video aesthetics. It's not perfect, but definitely worth a shot, as long as it appeals to you...

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