DVD Review: 'Madman'


There's not really a whole lot to say about the 1982 horror flick Madman. It's a fairly blatant and aggressively generic Friday the 13th retread that doesn't even have the decency to offer some memorable kills or young actors we'd recognize (like its sister flicks The Burning or The Final Terror), and despite the fact that the flick does have a small-but-loyal fan base, I don't see anyone clamoring to call Madman an unheralded classic of the slasher sub-genre. The flick's got some admirably goofy kills, some outrageously silly music, and (OK, fine) one cool shot that's actually halfway creepy.

The plot: several outlandish characters work at a camp for special children. Their dippy boss, in his infinite wisdom, decides to tell them a story about a killer who will go nuts if you say his name out loud. Logically someone does just that, and then we're off to a slow slog through body count territory. Forget the flick's bizarre affection for bad music, its tendency to let pointless scenes run extra long, and the consistently amusing acting performances ... there's just not a lot of fun to be found here. Carbon copy ripoff, fine. Low budget gore and unconvincing actors? Not a big problem. But Madman is clearly content on being a basic rehash (killer at a camp) that there's little freshness to get behind. Like many of its ilk, Madman was banged out by guys who saw Halloween and Friday the 13th making huge cash -- and not guys who were simply trying to make a kick-ass horror flick. As such, there's (very) little in the way of style or creativity.

For slasher-addicted horror junkies who cannot dismiss the call of gory nostalgia, the new Madman DVD is probably worth a look (provided you dig the flick more than I do) in a rental capacity, but there's no denying that the Code Red outfit has presented this goofy slasher flick with a surprising amount of extra feature. The 90-minute(!) documentary includes anecdotes from various cast and crew members, as well as a (rather uneventful) trip back to the Madman shooting location, but much of the material is pretty dry and/or tangential, which means that this piece is (of course) for hardcore fans only.

Many of the central figures (producer Gary Sales, director Michael Giannone (now deceased), actor Paul Ehlers) also contribute a rather self-serious audio commentary that (again) should please the fans, but leaves some of us (OK, me) wondering if these guys can see the essential badness of the final product. Everyone talks like Madman is some sort of undiscovered gem, and while I'm nobody to rain on someone's parade of horror nostalgia ... Madman is not a good film. It's actually a pretty painful 90 minutes. But at least the DVD is packed: also included are various TV spots, trailers, still galleries, and etc. So at least the DVD is a worthwhile package, even if the flick is better left to the annals of your vague memory.

But hey, what do I know? I'm a huge fan of Hell Night.