Norman and I watched Maniac yesterday. I didn't tell him this, but I had sort of been dreading it. Knowing the movie is insanely gory and misogynistic wasn't what was bothering me; I was worried that it would simply be a terrible, terrible movie and it would turn into one of those "ninety minutes of my life I'll never get back" experiences. I suppose it says a lot about me and my standards when I admit that it was far from the worst film I've ever seen, and that I even rather enjoyed a suspenseful sequence set in a deserted NYC subway station.
HOWEVER. By stating that Maniac isn't absolutely wretched, I find myself in the minority. One of the DVD's special features is its "Gallery of Outrage," a collection of some of the movie's worst reviews. My favorite quotes come from Desmond Ryan of the Philadelphia Inquirer ("Unspeakable and genuinely depraved... To call this horror film the work of sick and irresponsible perverts is to demean the honor of perverts") and Joseph Bensoua of the South Bay Breeze ("Absolutely worthless. This is the kind of trash that makes you want to join the Moral Majority"). Gene Siskel revealed that he couldn't stomach the onscreen shenanigans after the first half hour -- I'm guessing that the sight of Tom Savini's head exploding after being blasted point-blank with a double-barrel shotgun was the moment he beat a retreat. So ha! At least I can say I have a stronger stomach than the late Gene Siskel.
Maniac is, or at least was, distributed to the American public by the good folks who brought you Caligula.