Madman (1982)

Madman (1982)

Don’t say his name!

At a summer camp, a group of youths gather around a campfire, listening to a story about Madman Marz, a local farmer who went nuts and murdered his wife and kids before being hung by the townspeople. But his body went missing and it is rumoured that he is still alive, lurking in the woods. Rumour has it that if you call out his name above a whisper, he will come for you. So one of the cocky youths shouts out his name and it’s not long before ol’ Madman Marz comes calling for him and the others.

 

Ah the early 80s – the good old days of the slasher film where originality was still a strange term, where ‘teenagers’ looked more like 40 year olds and where the censors were still sharpening their swords ready for the cutting sprees that would follow in the years later. Madman contains practically every cliché in the book – an eye-rolling set-up story about a legend come to life, a remote setting in the woods, plenty of horny teenagers, people doing stupid things for no reasons, etc. The beauty with this one is that it has no right to be as entertaining as it is because overall it’s technically poor from the shoddy acting to the lazy script and even the cheap-looking gore. But something just clicks and pulls it all together. There was a solid slasher film waiting to pop out here but Madman is fine just the way it is.

For a start, the film actually looks good. The use of blue lighting for the night sky gives the forest a very eerie look about it and this lighting is also used for a couple of great scenes in which Madman Marz becomes silhouetted against it. You can’t see his face, just his hulking presence stalking someone with an axe. Director Joe Giannone has a decent eye for this side of the film – notably the moment where one of the characters stares up and sees someone watching them from the trees. The stalking scenes are also a little longer than most other slasher films so the suspense gets chance to build up more before the plug is pulled on certain characters. Sometimes it works (some of the woods scenes are very good, especially when everything is silent until you hear cracks of branches when Madman approaches) and sometimes it doesn’t (the scene where one of the girls hides inside the fridge is too long and stupid to work properly).

It wouldn’t be a slasher without a killer POV shot and there are plenty of them. There are also plenty of times when you see an axe raise up behind a character ready to strike. The body count is also reasonable and there’s some decent gore without the film going over-the-top too much, in particular the infamous car hood scene which defies logic and science but works as a great kill! Madman Marz himself looks like a deformed version of Santa. Thankfully they saw how crap he looked and kept him lurking around in the shadows, which actually turned out to be quite effective.

As with most of these 80s slasher films, the acting and dialogue, or lack of it, is the main criticism. I don’t know who writes these things but some of the characters have painstakingly preachy comments to make (the worst being the character of Max, sort of like the father-figure in charge of the camp). Also the script has each of the characters go off in turn to look for the character that went off looking for someone else. You’d have thought by the time the fourth person doesn’t come back, they would give up or all go together. However that wouldn’t lead anywhere – we need people isolated in order for a slasher to strike. To top the film off, the synthesized music score gives it that sleazy 80s charm – you can’t tell me you won’t get a sense of impending doom when the keyboard goes into overdrive as the ‘Madman’ title splashes up on the screen. It reeks of home video cheese.

 

Madman is one of the better slasher films out there. It’s campy and corny at times and runs by the book but it does have some decent moments and its impossible not to like. The phrase “they don’t make them like this anymore” is certainly true of Madman – 80s slash in its prime!

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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