Elijah Wood’s portrayal of serial killer Frank Zito in slasher remake Maniac will be able to play only to limited audiences in this country.
The Office of Film and Literature Classification has restricted viewing to film festivals, or tertiary level media and film studies courses, and only to people aged at least 18.
It said the movie had graphic violence, sex scenes and content that may disturb.
The man who portrayed heroic hobbit Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings movies, in Maniac becomes a damaged man who spends his nights stalking and scalping women who are walking home alone. He then uses the scalps to decorate mannequins.
The film, shot entirely from Zito’s point of view, will be shown at New Zealand International Film Festival (NZIFF) screenings in Auckland and Wellington.
NZIFF incredibly strange programmer Ant Timpson said he disagreed with the censor’s decision.
“The OFLC decision says that the film may be ‘injurious to the public good’ if it goes out on a wider release. It’s saying that the POV [point of view] nature of the film mixed with the psychopathic behaviour of actor Elijah Wood is more than disturbing, that it’s potentially dangerous in the hands of the wrong person (that is, a non-festival goer),” Timpson said.
“I can see the thought process behind it but I think it’s rather a big leap to make. I think it’s interesting to see where the OFLC draws a line on this dangerous POV material because it could also segue into a discussion about the graphically realistic and violent first-person video games.”
Neil Foley, of Australian distributor Monster Pictures, said Maniac was one the finest horror films in recent years, as its selection into the Cannes Film Festival would suggest.
“Banning the film beyond festival screenings is an insult to the intelligence of the adult population of New Zealand and does little more than to serve as an open invitation to illegally pirate the film. We are flabbergasted.”
The movie has received some critical acclaim.
A review in British newspaper The Guardian described it as a “surprisingly excellent” remake of the sleazy 1980 original.
“It’s the movie version of a first-person shooter .”
Remake director Franck Khalfoun told the newspaper he loved the original, partly because of the empathy he had for Zito.
“After everything he did, I felt bad for him and not the victims. My job was to convey the essence of that film to a new generation,” Khalfoun said.
The New York Times called the remake “efficiently grisly”.
“By not centering on the victims, Mr Khalfoun nearly makes the film about pitying the panic-prone killer,” it said.
NZIFF said the remake was the first film since The Bridge in 2007 to receive the festival-only classification, which meant it also could not be released on DVD.
In Auckland, Maniac screens on Saturday at 10.30pm at SkyCity Theatre and again on Thursday, August 1, at 8:45pm at SkyCity Theatre. In Wellington, Maniac screens on Friday August 9, 4pm at Paramount and again on Saturday August 10, 10pm at Embassy Theatre.