Maniac Driver is a 2020 Japanese horror thriller, written and directed by Kurando Mitsutake. Mitsutake has worked in many areas of film production but is most notable as director of Samurai Avenger: The Blind Wolf (2009) and Gun Woman (2014). Following a personal tragedy, a taxi driver randomly stalks and kills his female passengers in a search for a victim to appease his blood lust along with his own glorious death… But not all is as it seems on the surface.

Touted as a Japanese Giallo, Maniac Driver certainly delivers some of the greatest aspects of the Italian genre of cinema has to offer. The film has undoubtedly taken inspiration from Lucio Fulci’s New York Ripper (1982), Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977), and Andrea Bianchi’s Strip Nude for Your Killer (1975) in brutality, art design, and cinematography. Although, the film has taken influence from outside this genre as well, with the likes of Maniac (both the 1980 original and 2012 remake), as well as Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976), and even influence from Nikkatsu’s Roman Porno are easily distinguishable through the saturated lighting and retro 80s soundtrack.

Despite this, Maniac Driver seems to be missing the key markers of the Giallo film and novellas. These stories are always set around a bewitching mystery, constructing an enigmatic Whodunit framework to which the gritty depiction of violence can be draped across like a freshly skinned carcass. Unfortunately, Manic Driver appears devoid of such an idea, portraying the antagonist as the main character and progressing the narrative through his perspective, lacking any deception as to who the killer is. However, that isn’t to say that the film lacks any sort of twists or turns throughout, though these mostly focus on the motives rather than lend themselves to the air of mystery typical of the genre.

Additionally, although the music implemented works impeccably well as a chaperone to Maniac Driver‘s beautiful visuals, the sound design and genre are vastly different from the film’s source materials. The mechanical synths, chilling vocals, and progressive compositions of bands such as Italian group Goblin have been replaced with a fast-paced, hard rock soundtrack from the likes of Japanese group Aim Higher-a classic metal group with a similar sound to Iron Maiden. This dynamic change fully incorporates the full-throttle tone and plays, neigh on, uninterrupted throughout the film and equates to a non-stop adrenaline-fueled journey to visual and audio delight.

Maniac Driver 2020 Japanese Giallo Slasher

Nevertheless, these points are hypercritical nitpicking and hardly detrimental to the overall enjoyment to be ascertained throughout the film. The beautifully vibrant colour design twinned with the brutally candid depiction of violence as well as a kick-ass soundtrack to boot all alludes to an undeniably exciting thrill ride this reviewer didn’t want to end. Maniac Driver is another impeccable release from modern grindhouse master Kurando Mitsutake, finely distilling the beloved characteristics from classic exploitation films and successfully infusing his unique style into the mix to create an incredible, modern hybrid.

More Film Reviews

FTW (2010) Movie Review

Here at the Grimoire of Horror, we’ve reviewed both Jorge Torres-Torres’s Fat Tuesday and Sisters of the Plague, commented on him being one of the most underrated independent filmmakers working…