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Madman (1982)

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Score: 4/10

Genre: Slasher Running Time: 1 hr. 28 min.

Release Date: January 1st, 1982 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Joe Giannone Actors: Alexis Dubin, Tony Fish, Harriet Bass, Seth Jones, Jan Claire, Alex Murphy, Jimmy Steele, Carl Fredericks, Michael Sullivan, Paul Ehlers, Vicki Kenneally, Shelley Mathes, Lori Mathes

T

he opening title sequence couldn’t be more dissonant from the actual, brutally bloodthirsty contents of the film – beginning with pipe-heavy electronic music, goofy lettering, and absurd theme music, before cutting to the North Sea Cottages, a special retreat for gifted children. Several young men and women gather around a campfire to hear the story of Madman Marz (Paul Ehlers), as told by older counselor Max (Carl Fredericks). He warns that speaking the name above a whisper while in the woods will summon the evil spirit of Marz, inviting him to slaughter anyone wandering around alone. Legend has it that Marz was a mean, ugly farmer with a wife and two children. He beat his spouse and brutally punished his kids, drank nonstop at the tavern, and rowdily fought all the time. One night many years ago, he went stark raving mad and hacked up his sleeping wife, took an axe to his son and daughter, walked into the town’s tavern, and ordered a drink. Realizing what he’d done, ten men jumped him and dragged him to the nearest tree, gashed his face with the murder weapon and strung him up to die. But the following morning, all the corpses from his spree had vanished – including his own.

Sure enough, thanks to the insolence of young Richie (Jimmy Steele), who shouts Marz’ name, the resurrected madman begins stalking the dispersing vacationers. Trespassers at his dilapidated house, slumbering campers, and the pursued fleeing into the forest are all mercilessly hunted down and attacked. TP (Tony Fish) enjoys some alone time in the hot tub with lover Betsy (Alexis Dubin) before he goes in search of Richie and winds up in a noose; drunk Dippy (Michael Sullivan) can barely finish his whiskey before getting his throat slashed; Stacy (Harriet Bass) prefers to stumble around in the dark, avoiding the madman’s grasp by mere inches; and Dave (Seth Jones) comments on the unpredictable nature of spontaneously snapping psyches while he brandishes a pocketknife to a trio of unfazed adults – before he too is butchered.

The dialogue is absolutely terrible, gracing transitioning scenes for no other reason than to make the characters seem like humans. It doesn’t work, as they still come across as wooden, unrealistic, bland stereotypes. And the acting is just as atrocious (Jan Claire as Ellie is by far the worst offender, wispily spewing her lines like an unintentionally extreme exaggeration of Julie Hagerty). Ultimately, the roles are nothing more than a smattering of random bodies to be mutilated at the hands of the killer. Minutes after reciting spoken lines for lamentable character development, essentially indistinguishable roles are disposed of at axe point. At least, the order in which they die is somewhat unpredictable.

Although a few jump scares arrive with moderate success (flashlights tend to suddenly illuminate Marz’ hideous face), there’s a very uncomfortable and unsexy sex scene, Stacy can’t help but laughably fall on the ground repeatedly while being chased, Richie is the first to disappear and yet continually avoids death, a refrigerator proves to be a decent hiding place, and a severed head comically prevents a truck from starting. And for some inexplicable reason, Betsy bravely determines that she must search for survivors all alone, instead of recruiting help from the police station. But, perhaps most nonsensically, Betsy reveals that there are only five children at the camp, which makes it entirely unnecessary for nine supervisors to be present – chiefly since they’re most interested in using the retreat as an excuse to pair up and copulate. Marz himself is impressively hulking and generically slow-moving, but adorned with enough makeup, obscured framing, and helpful shadows to the point that he can aid in the creation of a few effective shots – though the entire finale is a brazenfaced rip-off of “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.”

– Mike Massie

 



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