Madman (1982)

OCTOBER 17, 2010


I have Shocker, but some other folks have Madman. I think there’s a certain type of horror film that requires one to see it at the exact right (read: young) age and not a day later, or else you will see it for how dull and/or bad it is. But for most of these types of movies, I can see what people like about them (i.e. for Shocker – the soundtrack, or the awful/awesome one-liners), though for Madman I’m kind of at a loss – what the hell do people see in this movie?

Because it’s actually worse than bad – it’s BORING. Bad is fine, especially for a slasher movie being watched at midnight almost 30 years after it was originally released. Something like Silent Night Deadly Night 2 would be breathtaking with that crowd. Madman just doesn’t have anything to bring to the table though; it’s just a series of increasingly dull scenes of people wandering around looking for the last person who went off wandering around. And you think I’m exaggerating? This is an actual line from the movie: “Richie’s been missing, so TP went to find him, and then Dave went to find HIM!” The person who says this, of course, goes out looking for Dave and gets killed, and then the people she was saying it to go looking for her.

And the stalking scenes are no help, since Marz only appears when he has to (i.e. right before he kills someone), and they pretty much all take place in the same patch of woods (the gore payoffs are minimal – nice bloody neck sans its head, and the decapped heads look good... but that’s about it). Director Joe Giannone also botches his best chance to make Marz look badass – there’s some nonsense about an ax that no one can pull out of a stump, and we see a few of our eventual corpses giving it a shot. So you know Marz is going to pull it out, but I bet you will be surprised to discover Marz himself has trouble with it. He should have pulled the thing out effortlessly, without even stopping, but instead he has to put a little elbow grease into it. Making the stump the bigger badass, basically.

The final showdown with Marz and the final girl is decent, because A. it’s in a house this time and B. Giannone finally got around to ripping off Halloween instead of Friday the 13th – there’s a great shot of Final Girl (Dawn of the Dead’s Gaylen Ross) walking in one room with Marz walking in pace with her in the background. And there’s a pretty great “find the dead bodies” scene as well, but it’s all too little too late. I’m actually amazed I managed to stay awake that long (yes, despite my pretty constant track record of falling asleep for the midnight movie, I stayed awake the whole time for once. For THIS!).

It’s also not exactly a technical marvel, with a lot of awful music edits, clunky blocking, and way too much padding. Granted it was one of the more delightful moments with a crowd, but if I was at home watching the interminable hot tub scene, I probably would have been sitting there wondering why anyone had recommended the movie to me. Then again, it DOES have a theme song, so it’s reasonable to think I’d enjoy it. However, it’s one of the lesser of the sub-genre, and the fact that we first hear it sung in a rhythm-less manner by one of the more annoying characters doesn’t help.

Madman himself, Paul Ehlers, and producer Gary Sales provided a Q&A both before AND after the film, which was cool, and more entertaining than the movie. Ehlers told the story of having to rush to the hospital for the birth of his son while still wearing the makeup, and both men told an account of going back to where it was shot and discovering the rope that Marz was hung from in a flashback scene was still hanging. Sales also tried to claim that they shot the film before Friday the 13th, which is just plain silly to do in front of a crowd of horror nerds who know damn well he was wrong (he even went out of his way to tell us that this week marked the 30th anniversary of the first day of shooting, which would be October 20th-ish, 1980 – Friday the 13th was released in May of that year). He also threatened a 3D remake, another odd thing to do in front of us purists. Plus a remake just sort of puzzles me outright – there’s nothing to this movie. Marz is not particularly memorable, his back-story is generic, and there’s no gimmick of any sort. It’s the most run of the mill slasher ever, clearly made to cash in on a trend THEN, why do it again now? Let it go.

I will point out that if you are a big fan of the movie, there’s a new DVD out this Tuesday, with a 90 minute retrospective documentary about the film, featuring several cast and crew. I wouldn’t mind watching it, but I doubt I’d ever want to revisit the movie itself. And if you haven’t seen it since you were a kid, I’d recommend holding on to your memories.

What say you?


  1. never understood all the hype. Madman is undoubtedly one of the worst and most boring slashers from the 80s

  2. I've got to defend MADMAN. Not only is it charming and kind of naive in its silly badness, but you can see that the director is actually trying to do fun/innovative stuff.

    The "peripheral camera glances" of Marz; some of the kills (the noose-drag and the "check under the hood" being two prime examples); the night-for-night photography. I mean, look: it's NOT a good movie, but I think it's actually on a short list of GOOD guilty-pleasure slasher movies.

    I think that the majority of slasher knock-offs from the early 80's were boring. They all had interminably long stretches of people looking around all alone (let's see, off the top of my head: HELL NIGHT, PROM NIGHT, HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW, TERROR TRAIN, THE BURNING, THE PROWLER, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME -- each have long, drawn-out, boring sequences of soon-to-be-victims wandering around in the dark for prolonged periods before an attack), it's a standard trope of the genre. (The Platinum Dunes remake of FRIDAY THE 13TH tried to remedy the inherent boredom by making all of the characters talk to themselves when they were alone. Which was awful.) Everyone making those films hoped they were building suspense while simultaneously reveling in how much padding they were adding to their runtimes.

    I think that you may be right about certain movies being something you had to see at a particular age or time to gain appreciation for them. No argument there. But I saw MADMAN for my first time about 4 years ago when I was working on a slasher movie project and decided to basically watch as many old school slashers as I possibly could.

    MADMAN somehow stood out for me. I felt like there were at least attempts to be innovative and atmospheric while basically doing nothing more than ripping off FRIDAY/HALLOWEEN (which is more than I could say for a lot of the other films of the era I watched). And it charmed me with its naivete.

    I guess I ENJOYED how bad it was, rather than tearing it apart for things it doesn't know it's doing wrong.


  3. I've read several reviews (such as this one) that mock the scene where Madman pulls the deeply-embedded axe from the tree stump, claiming that he briefly struggles with it and that the filmmakers botched an attempt to demonstrate his strength. These criticisms seem to miss the point of the sequence.

    Earlier two men attempt to extricate the same axe simultaneously, with both hands, and fail. Conversely in this later scene, Madman Marz gets a firm grip with one hand, gathers his strength and removes the blade while splitting the stump in the process. It constitutes one of the most badass moments in the film.

    From a practical standpoint, his "struggle" with the axe allows the camera to pan towards the stump before the blade is wrested free. At the same time, the sequence implicates that the mad farmer has more power in one hand than two men combined! I'm not sure why some reviewers don't understand this. How much stronger does he need to be to qualify as an intimidating, hulking figure? Perhaps he should pull entire trees from the ground, or topple cabins with his bare hands!


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