Growing up in the 80s and 90s, there were a few actors I was able to relate to who were more or less the same age as me. One of those dudes was HOME ALONE’s Macaulay Culkin, which was cool at the time, but then became really uncool not long thereafter. And Elijah Wood, which was cool for a time… and it’s actually still pretty cool, as the dude has continued to have quite a career, choosing cool and interesting projects along the way, and for having an obvious interest for the genre, starring in more than a handful of scare flicks / thrillers, and made the ballsy decision to headline the upcoming remake of MANIAC. So to prepare ourselves for Wood as a psycho-killer of women, let’s dive into his career in the genre and see what’s worked… and what hasn’t… over the years.
Some people will look you straight in the eye and tell you that Wood’s best work is what he’s done with Frodo Baggins in THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy (and subsequent THE HOBBIT trilogy), but I’m here to tell you that that assumption is false. While those movies have their merit and he’s good in them, his best movie/role to date has to be as the cannibalistic f*ck Kevin in Robert Rodriguez’s SIN CITY. Goddamn he’s good in that, and such inspired casting to put the once hometown boy into such a down and dirty role… and it works perfectly. His mellow demure is what makes the role so creepy, and let’s not take anything away from those glorious bug-eyes of his, which heightened the creep factor tenfold over.
But that’s not all he’s done that’s quality… let’s not forget his role in the other asteroid hitting the world movie DEEP IMPACT, the TV show where he trips balls and talks to giant man-sized dog WILFRED, the animated post-apocalyptic movie that is for anyone but kids in 9, and the highly underrated killer kid flick THE GOOD SON co-starring the then rival actor Culkin as the little bastard that’s up to no good. Having these two face off in a battle of good versus evil was genius for the time, as they seemed to be rivals on and off the screen. So put them up against each other in a movie, have Culkin drop F bombs and destroy his HOME ALONE image, and have Wood win in the end (much like real life, as it turns out) calls for 90 minutes of early 90s joy.
The guy shows up in every type of genre there is, from big blockbusters to indie romcoms, and everything in between. We’re just focusing on the genre we know and love, so it’s nice to report he doesn’t really have all that much that sucks under his belt. THE GOOD SON, mentioned early as one of his best, is also one of his worst if you watch it now for the first time, if you don’t have any nostalgia for the movie, and you never watched it when it came out and those two were on top of the world (the world of child actors, that is). Watching it now is tedious, painful, and a bit ridiculous. I still like it, don’t get me wrong, but I can also acknowledge that it is, in fact, kind of a piece of shit.
But one flick of his that I honestly feel is his weakest is THE OXFORD MURDERS, co-starring the great John Hurd. This movie tries to be an intellectual whodunit, on the trail of a serial killer through the prestigious world of Oxford University, as if it were a scaled down DI VINCI CODE or something as edgy. But it’s not. It’s just an OK murder mystery, and Wood delivers one of his worst performances to date. Most of his line delivery feels and sounds like he’s reading them from a placard off-screen, his acting is stiff, his character is whiny and unlikable, and the whole story with its twist and turns is just rubbish trying to play itself off for something bigger and better than what it is. Hurd is awesome in it, but everything else is simply rubbish.
Wood generally stars as the kid the next door, he’s the nerdy guy you can actually relate to in the movie, and the guy you’d probably get along with the most. His role in THE FACULTY pretty much sums up what he normally plays, and that works for his advantage. Whether it’s his mellow demeanor, or his gigantic bug-eyes that looks like he’s on Mars without a helmet, he almost has this cat-like look about him that people can’t help but like. He’s also short. So when he takes on roles in shit like SIN CITY and MANIAC, where he’s playing against type, he’s all the more effective in what he can accomplish as the bad guy…. because we’re all used to him being the good guy.
SIN CITY wasn’t the first time Rodriguez had worked with Wood. Nope, they came together in the late 90s and gave us one of the most underrated “my teacher is an alien” movies out there from writer Kevin Williamson: THE FACULTY. This little flick has a great cast of up and coming stars (some big just at the time, some even bigger now), and the whole aliens taking over the high school is what high schoolers daydream on a regular basis. Rodriguez and company just knew enough to actually make it happen… and make it work. Yes, it’s said Rodriguez hates the movie and it’s why he doesn’t work for studios (except his own) when he makes his movies, but taken as a pure ride of entertainment, it’s not one to be missed. And Wood as the dorky photographer is the type of classic role Wood excels at.
One of the most surprising remakes on its way to theaters (and already out in some parts of the world), is the remake of MANIAC, a sick little movie about a serial killer of women running rampant in New York City. It’s pure schlocky exploitation, yet it’s also disturbingly entertaining… but mostly, it’s f*cked. Not the usual type of flick to be remade for today’s audiences, which makes the casting of Wood as the serial killer in question all the more interesting. Wood as a psychopath? Sounds awesome. I’m down. And early word on the street is saying he does a pretty damn good job, and that the movie is surprisingly good. It hits theaters (limited, of course) next month, so keep an eye out for that bad boy. Wood also has the rest of THE HOBBIT movies coming out, though his role as young Frodo Baggins isn’t vast… more like a cameo than anything else.
Few child stars are successful both early on in their careers as kids as well as later in their careers as adults. Most develop unhealthy drug habits, they find other lines of work that fit their fancy more than acting, or they simply fall out of the limelight once they’re no longer the marketable child star. But not Wood. The dude did his time in kid movies, then graduated into the acting realm of teen movies, young adult, and now… he’s a bonafide actor, choosing new and against-type gigs all the time, with a serious knack for the genre. From THE GOOD SON to SIN CITY, from THE FACULTY to the upcoming MANIAC, Wood knows how to pick a solid genre effort and run with it. And even if there are a few OXFORD MURDERS out there, Wood prevails. I can’t wait to see what else he does down the line, and I hope the reception of MANIAC is overwhelmingly positive… it could only mean good things for both serial killer movies and Wood going forward.