Welcome to Friday Night Flix, where there’s never a need to leave the couch or put on pants. Each week I’ll recommend an under-the-radar movie currently available on one or more of the major streaming platforms. They won’t all be classics, but every selection is guaranteed to be 100% watchable or your money back.
Goddamnit. Despite my constant and heartfelt protestations, I’m actually starting to like Elijah Wood. If you had asked me a year ago, I’d tell you he hadn’t done decent work since The Faculty. Sin City was great BUT he didn’t talk so that explains that. To be fair (which I HATE being) I didn’t see Everything is Illuminated and I never watched Wilfred, both of which were supposed to be good. So I guess my resolve is already a little shaky. But this clown’s ersatz British accent – the single worst assault on England since World War II – crippled The Lord of the Rings. Isn’t that sufficient cause to despise him for all time and never change my opinion no matter what?
Well, lo and fucking behold, I’m starting to come around and the 2012 update of Maniac (Netflix, $3.99 Amazon) is a big reason why. It’s not that Frodo is particularly great in it (he’s not) but the man is committed. He could spend the rest of his life in comfort and wealth, vacillating between summer blockbusters and art house indies and no one would bat an eye. He’d basically be a cut-rate Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Yet here’s Wood, doing a genre movie that will never see a wide theatrical release, never make tons of money on DVD sales, and never garner any kind of critical attention outside the Fangoria fringe.
Wood’s genuine interest in the material makes the horror fan feel a certain kinship. Here we see a star, by his own choosing, taking up the outcast’s mantle without pandering or condescending. He doesn’t have a lot of screen time (most of the movie is shot from “his” POV) so mostly we get Eli in the form of bland, warbling voiceover. His vocal work has never been particularly strong but his few physical scenes are truly disturbing. It’s not just the bloody murders and psychosexual anxiety, though both are horrific and hard to watch. It’s Wood’s contorted face, wracked with internal struggle, and his watery, electric blue eyes, which, in this context are about as far removed from his dreamy teenybopper roots as one can image.
Added Bonus: In addition to Maniac and his upcoming horror comedy Cooties, Wood announced last year that he was partnering up with some other people who I’m sure are very important to form a horror production company called Woodshed. They announced a few cool projects that still haven’t been released but just last month, Wood and co. rechristened their nascent enterprise SpectreVision. This is an unspeakably awesome name. Well played, Mr. Baggins.