New Zealand has banned a controversial horror film, starring Elijah Wood as a scalp-collecting serial killer, from general release after the government deemed it too graphic and disturbing for the public.
The remake of 1980 slasher film about a killer who scalps his victims was released in Ireland in March of this year but now cannot be screened anywhere in New Zealand other than film festivals or as part of academic study. DVDs of the film will not be allowed for sale.
The government censor said that Maniac, which is shot from the killer’s point of view, contains graphic violence and “content that may disturb”, and said a wide release of the film “is likely to be injurious to the public good”.
“The murders are depicted in first-person perspective, inviting a viewer’s vicarious participation,” the agency wrote in a summary of its reasons behind the restriction.
“While the feature does not actively promote or support this material, the tacit invitation to enjoy cruel and violent behaviour through its first-person portrayal and packaging as entertainment is likely to lead to an erosion of empathy for some viewers.”
The ban was condemned by the film’s regional distributor and organisers of the New Zealand International Film Festival, which will be screening the movie on Saturday.
Monster Pictures, distributor of the film for Australia and New Zealand, said suggestions that Maniac minimises the impact of violence are ridiculous, and called the ban an insult to the intelligence of New Zealanders given that the idea of shooting the film from the killer’s point of view has been around since the 1960s.
Maniac premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last year and has received mixed reviews.
The last film in New Zealand to be banned from general release was The Bridge, a 2006 documentary about suicides at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.
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