Elijah Wood plays a mother-fixated serial killer who prowls the streets of Los Angeles in search of young women to stab and scalp. However, when young artist Anna (Norah Arnezeder) asks for his help with an exhibition their new friendship threatens to derail his slasher spree. Director Franck Khalfoun and writer Alexandre Aja's ultra-violent remake of William Lustig's 1980 shocker uses as its USP a point-of-view shot entirely from the psychotic perspective of the murderer. Definitely not for the faint-hearted.
After turns as a mute, cannabalistic killer in Sin City and a football thug in Green Street, Elijah Wood completes his trip to the dark side as Frank, a serial killer of elfin young women whose particular quirk is scalping the sometimes living victims of their tresses of hair.
His modus operandi is to trawl the grubbier streets of Los Angeles in a transit van, spotting his victims, methodically stalking them and then striking without mercy, his weapon of choice being an oversized bowie knife.
Once the gory deed is done, he flees back to his urban sanctuary, a mannequin shop where he drapes his bloody mementoes on the heads of full-sized plaster models...and then chats to them.
His slaughter-and-short-back'n'sides routine appears to be going well (apart from the occasional migraine featuring flashbacks of his sluttish mum) until gamine photographer Anna (Arnezeder) snaps the mannequins in his shop window and has a chinwag with him.
She doesn't seem perturbed that he lives alone in the back of a shop full of life-sized dolls (this is LA, after all) and soon they're heading off on fun dates (a screening of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari) and taking walks in the park.
However, Frank's new-found existence as a regular guy doesn't last long when he discovers she's got a boyfriend and he's humiliated at her avant garde exhibition in a trendy gallery. Time to head back to
the knife draw.
Despite trying to contextualise this with references to his abusive childhood (one disturbing memory features Mom in a menage-a-trois), what remains is an extremely unpleasant, misogynistic slasher movie.
The POV technique where we see all the action through Frank's eyes is effective in that you get a grandstand view of a very big blade slicing into young, female flesh accompanied by a gruesomely authentic soundtrack.
Wood's Frank is impossible to empathise with (unlike Joe Spinell in the original) probably because the POV conceit means we spend every minute in his company...and he's not a fun guy to be around.
One for fans at the nastier end of the slasher spectrum.