Monday, 21 November 2011

Review : Madman (1982)


Joe Giannone


Joe Giannone (screenplay), Joe Giannone (story), and 1 more credit »

Legend tells of a deranged madman, who lives deep in the woods surrounding some summer camp or other, and if you say his name above a whisper, he'll come looking for you, brandishing an axe and an attitude problem. Cue dumb teenage kids shouting his name out into the dark woodlands. Bad idea, son....

Believe it or not, this much-ignored little slasher sits proudly among my very favourite of the sub-genre, alongside BLACK CHRISTMAS, HALLOWEEN, THE BURNING, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and COLD PREY 1 & 2. I just cant get enough of this film, from its lumbering, doom-laden opening theme to its horrendous casting. Its just perfection.

I mean, look at those opening credits, with the tree formations resembling grasping hands, and the piercing synth squeal over the title card. Whats not to love? Its scary too. MADMAN has one of the creepiest opening scenes in slasher history, and while it follows the genres blueprint like my cat follows pussy, it manages to bring a certain vibe to the table that actually quite unique among slashers. From the opening credits to the grand visage of the 'Madman', himself, this little gem has a strangely appropriate fairy-tale thing going on. Madman Marz, (don't say his name above a whisper!), resembles an ogre of sorts, and his dilapidated home has the appearance of a monsters lair in many shots.Whether any of this was intentional or not, I ain't sure, but its there. The whole show is pretty well shot too. The interiors of the hapless campers cabins are warm and inviting, and the nighttime exteriors are all shot through blue lenses, giving them an old school, other-worldly atmosphere. It works really well.

Just look at this title-card, and tell me it ain't beautiful...

Our killer is bad-ass too. He looks like his ass got handed to him by a lawnmower, and he even has his own theme song, which plays over the end credits and is unmissable. There are some brilliant shots of the crazy bastard stomping around, axe in hand, through moonlit woodlands and darkened buildings that are actually really artful. I'm at a loss as to why this film disappeared from most 80's kids memories. Its stuck firmly in mine. Two scenes in particular were etched into my brain at a very young age...the amazing opening, (which freaked the ever-loving shit out of me), and a particularly great, 'beheading via car-hood', that delights me as much now as it did when I was a sick little kid.

What I failed to recall from my youth was the insane casting...

Now I'm not one to judge people on appearances, but this has to be among the most unattractive casts ever assembled for any film, never mind a slasher, where hot ladies are the law. If this was a family drama, perhaps about inbreeding, then I could see the reason these choices were made. Its a fucking slasher though, folks, (and no, casting Gaylen Ross from DAWN OF THE DEAD does not make things better. Shes hardly Catherine Zeta Jones) . Theres zero eye candy here for either the guys or the gals in the audience. And the one sex scene may well be enough to render men impotent and women barren. Its deeply disturbing and among the films scariest moments. If anyone finds this scene sexually help, and stay the hell away from me.

And heres the real rub, and something that led me on an investigative adventure a few years back....they all look related. I mean it! The cocky kid who pisses off 'Madman 'Marz' as the film begins could be twins with a few of the gals in here, and yet after looking into this weird shit, it turns out theyre not related. Its downright creepy, man.

Also, theres one chick who looks like shes out of her mind on top-grade Acid for the entire show. I assumed the first time I re-watched it as an adult, that the character had learning difficulties, but that's not the case either. She's just a fucking moon-maiden. And I don't mean the character, as written, I mean the actress. You don't know fear till you witness the MADMAN cast, folks. Gives me the chills just thinking about that chicks dough-eyed stare. Whats going on in there? Whats she seeing that we all ain't? I'm not sure I wanna know. On the plus side, her death is great, and fully deserved after she hides in a fridge to escape our axe-wielding pal. Take that, creepy space-girl!

Its testament to the greatness of MADMAN, that its mind-boggling sex-scene and casting that would shame Edward D. Wood Jr, still can't knock this thing from its place as a classic. The stalking and kill scenes are brilliant. The atmosphere is dense, otherworldly and constant, the folk-lore behind the killer is dynamite, and genuinely scary, and the cinematography is crisp, unique and very complimenting of the story being told. Not to mention the classic 80's Synth score than today's so-called slasher directors seem to have forgotten how to use. MADMAN is just fucking brilliant.

Mummy, make the scary lady go away!
If your one of the many poor souls who missed this slice of slasher heaven back in the 80's, or your a kid who's been raised on today's bullshit excuses for slashers, (COLD PREY 1 & 2 excluded), you really ought to check this little number out. Wanna know how to effectively set up the mythos of a slasher villain? Just listen to that campfire tale at the beginning, and then shudder as a character looks into the darkened treetops, silhouetted by the moon and sees.....

I ain't gonna spoil it. Its a great moment in a great film, and you owe to yourself to at least give it a shot. MADMAN is a movie I can watch over and over and always find something to smile about. Its got it all, brilliance and bullshit, charm and cheese, fear and fuck-wits. What have you got to lose?

Find it, watch it, love it, but for gods sake when it gets to the sex scene, just keep telling yourself.....It's Only A Movie, ITS ONLY A MOVIE, ITS ONLY A MOVIE!!!!

8 Nightmarish Moon-Maidens out of 10

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