The folks, like me (and several other great writers), who subject themselves to an endless supply of low-budget horror movies go through a lot of misery. (I watch a lot more horror movies than I actually review; let's leave it at that.) In order to help "discover" an obscure foreign import or a micro-budgeted flick, we often sit through a half-ton of cinematic crap -- which is why when a scrappy little independent feature comes along that has JUST a bit more to offer than many of its peers, it's time to make a little bit of noise about it. The recent offering known as Madison County, for example, is 80% familiar and 20% novel, but there's enough promise and potential here to separate it from the pack. Unapologetically reminiscent of other basic horror films, but packing a quiet confidence that rears its head (and well) in Act III, Madison County is hardly the most unique slasher flick out there, but it is evidence of some filmmakers who have more creativity than cash.
Totally honest: you've already seen the first half of this flick. Madison County is about a gang of five young and attractive people who pile into a vehicle and hit the road for... somewhere distant. It doesn't really matter that our lead guy is on his way to meet an infamously reclusive author, at least not to start with, because a lot of Madison County's first half is dedicated to setting up the characters, building up a little mystery, and making us just a little bit tense, wondering when the first shoe is finally going to drop. And once we're done with the extended sections of bantering, bickering, and butting heads with a bunch of creepy locals -- that's when Madison County starts to get more interesting.
Our first dispatch, for example, is a harbinger of creepy things to come, and it's presented in a stark, creepy, mysterious fashion by writer/director Eric England. He also earns points for having a keen eye for disturbing detail, whether it comes as a corpse floating in a river, or as a pick-up truck that makes a wrong turn WELL in the background of an otherwise sobering sequence. The gore work is surprisingly solid, shot well, and appropriately vicious, and (best of all) Madison County presents some fast-paced tension and effectively grisly "daylight" horror in its finale, as if to sort of "make up" for the familiar concepts and characters we've been subjected to. Overall it works: thanks to a better-than-average cast, a little old lady who could become a new horror icon, and a sense of mystery (even ambiguity) that suits the antagonist quite well, Madison County takes a while to get where it's going, but the final destination is satisfying enough.