Troma are renowned for the quality (be it Troma quality) of their in-house productions, the latest – Return to Nuke ‘Em High Volume 1 comes to UK DVD in July. Their acquisitions however vary quite dramatically from the woeful (mentioning no names) to the pretty damned fine, for example Killer Nerd (1991), Cannibal! The Musical (1993) and Father’s Day (2011). Irrespective of the quality of these flicks, the primary thing for me has always been that Troma enabled the distribution of these low budget movies, which in this current environment demands that we should all kneel and kiss the vintage brogues of Lloyd Kaufman.
If anything, the path of LA Maniac shows the length of time it can take for an indie film to find distribution. Shot in 2010, the director Craig McIntyre fully expected his movie The Los Angeles Ripper to cut a deal sooner rather than later. With a premiere in the bag by August 2011 at the New Beverly Cinema in LA no less, that expectation reached fever pitch. However, almost three years later and with a name change to boot is ‘LA Maniac’ finally unleashed to a wider audience.
As the production company logos pop up at the start of the film, the fact that they’re accompanied by the tracking lines of a world weary VHS tape gives us an indication of the inspiration to McIntyre’s flick. It’s a Sunday afternoon in LA when we’re introduced to the seedy looking Grahm (Tobin), sporting leather fingerless gloves and half-mast beige slacks. He picks up hookers from time to time in his non-descript serial killer van and he doesn’t disguise his sneering predilection for anal sex.
Meanwhile arriving into the City of Angels is Kristy White (Martinez) who has the rather dubious privilege of staying with her party going cousin Angel (Monroe) and Aunt Peggy (Beverley Bassette). Being a naïve girl from Ohio, Kristy is about as streetwise as… well, a naïve girl from Ohio. With Angel being a party demon though it’s not long before Kristy is being dragged into the Long Beach nightlife to sample some nocturnal hedonism. Needless to say it doesn’t take long for the nefarious Grahm to appear on the scene – he’s already known to Angel, and before we know it he’s taken a leering interest in Kristy which will eventually develop into something quite sinister indeed.
Any movie whose narrative revolves predominantly around a psychopath is dependent on how that character is written and acted. Happily with L.A Maniac this aspect is pretty successful. Randy Tobin as the psychotic Grahm gives a performance that manifests the sinister edge of Joe Spinell with the innocent wide-eyed misplaced humour of a Will Ferrell character. It’s a bewildering fusion, but it’s one that works quite brilliantly as you find yourself reeling from his candour one minute then smirking at his idiocy the next.
L.A Maniac with its meagre resources is unlikely to ever be embraced by a mainstream audience. In its low budget world though it displays the capability and ingenuity to stand out from the hordes of mediocrity and establish itself as a title to seek out. The director Craig McIntyre shows the ability to create a series of perverse and threatening scenarios, and by enveloping that with a solid cast, pumping soundtrack and sickening violence – the result is pleasing indeed.