Occasionally, a genre film will attract the attention of a mainstream audience in an “unexpected way”. Maniac premiered in New York City on January 30, 1981, playing to packed audiences on 42nd street, a group well-versed in the exploitation cinema of the 1970s and early 80s. But when the film started to open in other markets around the country, the film received the type of negative publicity that was rare for the time period, with protesters picketing theaters which screened the film for its portrayal of graphic violence, especially towards women. Many critics and film historians point to Maniac as the last gasp for the slasher sub-genre, before increased scrutiny from censors and concerned civic groups curtailed the production of and marketing ability of filmmakers to produce stories like Maniac. Since then, Maniac has been given a second-life as one of the truly controversial films of the decade, yet it has also become a touchstone for modern critics, who continue to fall on either side of the argument.
Horror fans who were born after the year 2000 may find it hard to believe that the only way to discover what film was opening at your local theater on any given weekend was by perusing the entertainment section of your local newspaper. If you were lucky, you would have found a new horror film that was coming to your favorite cinema, and if you were really lucky, the listing would have been accompanied by an advertisement featuring lurid, sensational artwork promising (but not always delivering) an hour and a half worth of thrills and chills. read more