MADMAN (OCTOBER 13TH)
YOU'VE GOT RED ON YOU TAKES PART IN THE 31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN CHALLENGE; WATCHING ONE HORROR MOVIE A DAY THROUGHOUT OCTOBER. SOME OF THEM OLD, SOME OF THEM NEW, SOME OF THEM HAVE JUST BEEN ON OUR SHELVES FOR YEARS GATHERING DUST, STILL IN CELLOPHANE...
There's something hugely enjoyable about a good slasher movie. Although they come in all shapes and sizes, the typical 'group of young adults trying to escape a merciless (and sometimes masked) killer' set-up is a tried-and-tested formula that was a staple part of the genre for several decades. It's fair to say that those types of movies aren't really fashionable anymore. Wes Craven's Scream (1996) was the catalyst for a mini-revival, however the last decade or so has been a tough time for stalk'n'slash pics. Hopefully the upcoming reboot of Halloween will help kick-start the sub-genre once more but until then, there are tonnes of old (but not necessarily good) titles to track down and that's exactly what I did. I plumped for Madman (1981).
The films starts off with a mixture of camp leaders and kids around a campfire, with several of the older members of the group telling scary stories. One of these involves the legend of someone called 'Madman Marz' who used to live in the woods with his wife and kids a long time ago. He wasn't a nice bloke and one day, for no apparent reason, decided to murder his entire family. He axed a few to death and hung his wife. And if you say his name above a whisper in the woods, he will return and kill you and those you are with. Whilst this story is told we get a series of apparent flashforwards to scenes later in the film that appear to show a load of the campers being killed, which is a bit odd. Anyway, one of the group obviously decides to yell out 'Madman Marz' at the top of his voice and well, you know the rest...
One of the things that bugs me about some sections of modern audiences is the lack of respect for older titles. 'The effects are shit!', 'Look at the clothes!', 'What kind of a hairdo is that?!'. We've all seen low-budget films from decades ago that have looked and felt ropy and there's nothing wrong with having a good chuckle about the kitsch value that these films offer. That's part of the fun – and it feels almost cruel to use those elements to batter a film with. Things were different back then, come on!
However, saying all of that – I cannot tell you just how hilariously bad Madman was. There are times when the film is so bad that it's entertaining, a few fleeting moments that are actually genuinely good but for the most part, it's a film that's just really quite bad. The film did ok upon it's release and became a bit of favourite on the drive-in circuit. And despite generally negative reviews from film writers and critics, it has since done that thing where it has become a bit of a cult film amongst some horror fans. I wonder if that'll happen with stuff that's considered bad today? In thirty years time will stuff like Rings and Ouija have a dedicated following? Who knows.
The thing is, I am not entirely sure what tone to take with this as I'd be lying if I said I didn't sort of enjoy Madman in a sadistic kind of way. The highlights (or low points) of the movie pretty much all involve the dialogue – and to a lesser extent, the acting. I'm willing to overlook the acting a little bit because you don't expect a top quality cast in a low-budget 80's slasher but it'd help if they had a few people that could act a little bit. But the dialogue...oh man. This was Director/Writer's (Joe Giannone) first and only feature and although he is responsible for some nice visual flourishes, the writing is...well, there were times when I basically fell about laughing. Watching people interact with each other in a way that no two actual humans would, is uncomfortable amusing. There's one scene in particular where one of the camp leaders launches into a weird speech about how you 'never really know what's going on inside someone's head' that had me with my head in my hands. Writing great dialogue is difficult, but writing bog-standard dialogue really isn't. Maybe it was intentionally bad but I am not sure the film is self-aware enough to do that!
The bad guy is actually pretty neat and we initially catch only glimpses of him in the woods. He's a big lumbering Victor Crowley type, complete with messed up face and wail. The death scenes aren't bad either and there is some fun to be had there. We get the usual people 'people walking off into woods by themselves' and 'women crying and falling over tree stumps whilst trying to run away' scenes but then that's part and parcel of this type of film that you come to expect and love.