Madman (1981)


Madman (1981)
: Alexis Dubin, Tony Fish, Harriet Bass, Seth Jones, Paul Ehlers
Director: Joe Giannone
Nutshell: Drive-in style horror makes Friday the 13th appear well acted and polished!


Madman was conceived in the wake of and indeed in awe of Friday the 13th a film whose storming success had given Indie films a new lease of life and some much needed street cred. Friday the 13th had been picked up and distributed by giant Hollywood studio Paramount and as a result it became every indie filmmakers dream to be courted by the big wigs.

Madman (1981)
Madman (1981)

Madman, had it been made today, would have gone straight to video at best – yet in the early 80’s with video still beginning to mushroom, each and every shoestring budgeted horror flick managed to secure a worldwide theatrical release. Alas the trend is well and truly over and now 90% horror finds itself straight to video.

A bunch of typical summer camp instructors and students are winding up a session by retelling some tales of legendary horror by the fireside. A creep calling himself TP entertains the campers with a lilting medieval song about the horrors of the jungle and then the elderly camp supervisor whispers a story about the legend of the Madman Marz who roamed the area having butchered his family with an Axe for no apparent reason. Now, the Madman rests but if you utter his name too loudly, he will be disturbed and come out to find you…and kill you. Naturally one of the idiots at the fireside shouts the name out loud and one senses that Madman Marz won’t be too thrilled at having his name called out with such irreverence.

Slowly but surely, a shadowy axe-wielding shape resembling a dishevelled old blimp in severe need of a manicure starts stalking the unwary campers as they go about their business of taking aimless strolls in the forest. The Madman also tends to make alarming guttural groaning sounds suggesting a serious lack of communication skills. Yet he scales trees like Tarzan and is clearly a very powerful specimen with the strength of at least ten men. The horrors start to mount when we are subjected to the second song (of four) of the movie. If the medieval ditty by the fireside was puke inducing, this maudlin, schmaltzy turd of a song is by far the most frightening aspect of the movie, especially as it has been sung by someone whose vocal skill could be better employed as an instrument of torture. Gary Sales, the co producer of the film is responsible for the lamentable, torturous songs and will have a lot of explaining to do when he meets his maker!

Madman (1981)
Madman (1981)

The film is largely a succession of (dull) sequences where characters are being stalked as they go walkabout in the forest accompanied by a music score that sounds like it was composed and played on one of those Casiotone battery operated keyboard thingy. The attempts at suspense are so contrived they end up as unintended self parody. The shocks are shocking only in how predictable and orchestrated they are. There is nothing about Madman that is novel in any way. It does however provide some giggles at the atrociously mounted gore effects as well as the fabulously amateurish acting. At the end of the day, the closest this film gets to real horror is the four terrifying songs composed and performed by the producer of the film, far more horrifying than the comical decapitations and mutilations that otherwise grace the movie.

Seriously tacky, made for the drive-in but it has it’s dedicated posse of die hard fans which is testament to the films “cult” value.


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