Steve Hudgens has been working his tail off for a few years now creating Indie horror flicks. As the writer, director, producer and performer in his films there is no doubt that every scene drips “Hudgensisms”.
Maniac on the Loose is a tale about a, well… maniac on the loose. A vicious serial killer has escaped from a psychiatric ward to return to his childhood home and it is up to his doctor to find him and bring him back to confinement. The good doctor enlists the help of the ward’s janitor to comb the city and find the hiding place of the escaped psychopath.
There are many tentacles to this story with each character having a part to play and a secret to keep. There are so many paths in Maniac on the Loose, in fact, that it’s impossible to relay each of them without recounting the entire script from beginning to end. Suffice it to say that everyone has a story, everyone has a secret and around every corner is a twisting and turning surprise. The gore factor is strong and lots of people die in violent and bloody ways.
Where to start on a critique of this film… First the good part, the story. Although the dialogue is a bit weird in places the story is intriguing and full of surprises. Some of the twists were telegraphed a mile away, but as the tale progressed it was clear that these early “giveaways” were designed to distract from the even greater twists and turns to come. Hudgens’ writing is imaginative in content and works well as the plot begins narrow and straight forward, expands out like a giant squid with deadly arms protruding in every conceivable direction and then ties itself up in a neat little bow. It’s a thing of beauty, really.
The cinematography and music betray the extreme lack of budget available for this film, but overall do a good enough job to not be distracting. Bad sound is the number one complaint I have with micro-budget horror, and Maniac on the Loose didn’t have any significant troubles there. Although far from a visual and auditory masterpiece this film pulled off what needed to be pulled off.
Now for the parts that are, how should I say, “less than ideal”. First there is the acting. Not all of the performers are terrible or anything, but none of them (with the exception, perhaps, of the doctor looking for the maniac) are well-suited for their roles. The characters just don’t seem to fit doing the things that they are doing, which makes them seem like they are terrible. And then, some of them really were terrible.
the real problem with this film is in Hudgens himself. He may be�an imaginative writer – he might even be an okay actor, that’s hard to say – but he really needs to stop directing his own movies. In the last review I wrote about a Hudgens film, The 3rd Floor, I noted that the fact that he was directing himself undermined the effectiveness of his character because there were no checks on the cheesy interpretations he chose. This one has that problem times 10, primarily because this time he is a main character that is in half of the scenes. Too much cheese, too many wild-eyed looks and too much of raising the vocal volume every time an important point was to be made resulted in too many Hudgens scenes and too much frustration for me. I was happy when he died.
After watching Maniac on the Loose and The 3rd Floor I’ve realized that I like Hudgens’ writing but, so far, I don’t much like Hudgens’ movies. I suspect that if Hudgens would write the script and then limit himself to a minor character role (directed by someone else) who knows, all that could change on a dime.