31 Days to Scare ~ Madman

The Facts:

Synopsis: At a summer camp for youths, a pre-teen calls out the name of mass serial killer “Madman Marz”. Suddenly, counselors are being maimed and slaughtered in various ways by the backwoodsman who has returned when his name was called.

Stars: Gaylen Ross, Tony Fish, Harriet Bass

Director: Joe Giannone

Rated: R

Running Length: 88 minutes

TMMM Score: (5/10)

Review: When viewing horror films from the early 80’s, I think it’s important to be able to keep them in context as they related to the movie business at the time.  Many of these horror films that we consider classics were independently produced and then purchased by big name studios for distribution.  Without a studio suit hanging around the set, giving notes, and handling the money these filmmakers did it their own way warts and all.

1982’s Madman is an interesting little wart of a movie.  Without any trace of true originality, the film rides the coattails of classics like Halloween and especially Friday the 13th which this is nearly a direct sequel to.  Taking place over the course of one evening as a deranged and deformed hillbilly stalks a group of counselors at a camp nestled deep in the woods, the movie falls victim to its own lack of creativity by playing everything by the book.

It’s almost as if director and screenwriter Giannone took the script for Friday the 13th and its sequel, changed a few details, and went out into the woods to make the movie with a six pack, some friends, and a few cameras.  What’s most disappointing watching the film today is all of the opportunities to do something different you see being missed left and right by a largely clueless crew and actors.

Take for instance one of the more notable stalking sequences where a shrieking harpy of a counselor hides from the killer…in a refrigerator.  Keep in mind she has to throw all the food and shelves out before she climbs in.  While a laughably inept solution, there was an opportunity here to mine that idiocy into something interesting involving her now being trapped in this old refrigerator.  I won’t say exactly the outcome of this but let’s just say that she won’t have to worry about freezer burn.

Let’s not also forget an absolutely hysterical sex scene in a hot tub set to some slow jazz.  I honestly think the movie is worth seeing for this sinfully non-erotic moment alone.  Ross (who previously starred in the horror classic Dawn of the Dead) and Fish spin around the Jacuzzi like rubber duckies while making come-hither eyes at one another.  It’s worth the price of admission…I swear.

It’s a pity the rustic settings weren’t used a little bit better – it has all the makings of a good fright fest but just can’t crack the code that made other slasher films of the era so sound.  I’ve seen Madman a few times over the years and can appreciate in a small way its indie vibe and decent outline.  It’s in the execution where the film comes up short and because of that Madman remains a middling reminder that other, better films were being released at the same time.