You can usually tell a great slasher flick by the franchise it creates. A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and Halloween were all fantastic horror movies that demanded more money be thrown at them to continue their body counts in long lines of sequels.
But some movies don’t get that exposure, only to be revisited later on and become cult classics for the genre. Madman is one of those films.
Movie: Madman (1981)
Plot: At a “special retreat for gifted children” with more counselors than kids, a campfire story about the urban legend Madman Marz becomes a reality when one of the kids goes against the camp director’s warning and yells out his name, awakening a cross between Sasquatch and Jason Voorhees who goes on a killing spree.
Killer: Madman Marz, or Bigfoot the Serial Killer.
Critique: To be honest, horror movies in the 1980’s had many more duds than hits for its time. It may not seem that way considering the franchises that were born from that decade like A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th and, if we’re cheating on the years, Halloween, but the decade was such a horror boon that films were constantly churned out because they would fill the seats, and drive-ins, no matter how cheesy they may be. It seemed like the best way to make a quick buck in Hollywood was to shoot a low-budget horror movie. It was only later that these films started to get the cultish love they have today. Madman was one of those movies.
Madman had a ton of great things going for it. The sound design (except for a song that we’ll get into later) was top-notch. Whether it was the ominous mood soundscape when characters were being stalked, and killed, by Madman Marz or songs like the title-bearing theme song, the music and sound effects did a great job of drawing the viewer into the film’s world. The same can be said for the acting, as little-known as almost all of the cast was. They felt authentic, even while laying around a fireplace, probably stoned, talking about death and destruction. As important as anything, the kills were also great. Even the generic ones had great surprise elements, whether it be the constant misses by Madman or the fantastic use of environment for the creative kills that you could tell were coming.
But it’s hard to call Madman the perfect horror movie when some of the music drags out (in the hot tub scene that we’ll talk about in a moment) and “the awakening” that jump-starts the film seems so random. Really, Richie is the first kid to ever call out Madman Marz since “the legend”? There’s a lot of “some’s” in the negatives column Madman, but there is are much more “most”‘s in the positives.
Scene of Awesomeness: While Betsy scouts out the camp with a shotgun, she accidentally blows away a not quite dead Ellie. It’s not just surprising, it’s that Betsy seems so nonchalant about it.
Scene of Ridiculousness: That hot tub scene between T.P. and Betsy is just over the top! They spend almost the entire scene spinning away from each other while the real T.P., Tony Fish aka Tony Nunziata, does the vocals for the “made for the film” song “I Don’t Need Words” playing the whole time. I guess they had to spin around so much to make sure they get the entire song in with the hopes it make the Top 40… or Top 4000.
Body Count: 10
3 generic flashback axings
1 throat slashing with an unknown weapon. Could have been Madman Marz’s fingernails
1 hanging ( Awesomely Overkill Award, because T.P. tries so hard to stay alive until Madman Marz yanks him down by his monogrammed belt buckle)
1 decapitation by axe
1 decapitation by car hood
1 back-snapping in the air, pro wrestling-style
1 axe to the chest, with a shotgun blast to the face later
1 meathook hanging
No breasts, probably because of no budget
Actors/Actresses of Note: The only notable actress on this casting roster is Gaylen Ross, who played Francine in George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and Leslie Nielsen’s wife in Creepshow. She’s credited as Alexis Dubin to keep SAG off her back, since this was a non-union acting role.
Quote: “I love to feel the flames devour the wood. Who says there’s no beauty in destruction?” – Bill
Watchability: 4 out of 5, definitely worthy of revisiting when you need a break from re-watching more well-known slasher flicks.