Tuesday, October 11, 2022

#2,834. Madman (1981)


It all started during a campfire at North Sea Cottages, a special retreat for gifted children…

A 1981 low-budget horror film, Madman has gained a cult following over the years, and while the movie itself has a few weaknesses that not even die-hard genre fans can overlook, there’s enough here to make it a worthwhile entry in the slasher subgenre.

It’s the final night of summer camp, and everyone is gathered around a fire. Head counselor Max (Carl Fredericks) regales them all with an urban legend, that of a farmer who murdered his family, then was taken into the woods by an angry mob and hanged. But the farmer’s body disappeared the next morning, and there are those who say that, if you utter his name - “Madman Marz” - above a whisper, he will return and start killing once again.

Richie (Jimmy Steele), one of the campers, doesn’t believe this story, and shouts “Madman Marz” at the top of his lungs, only to spot a shadowy figure up a nearby tree as everyone is returning to camp. Unbeknownst to assistant counselors TP (Tony Fish), Betsy (Gaylen Ross), Stacy (Harriet Bass), Dave (Seth Jones), Ellie (Jan Claire), and Bill (Alex Murphy), Richie stays behind to investigate, setting in motion a chain of events that, before the night is out, will result in the demise of a good many people.

Directed by Joe Giannone (who also penned the screenplay), Madman gets off to a great start, with actor Carl Fredericks doing a fantastic job relating the story of Madman Marz; and Paul Ehlers, hidden behind a mask, also has his moments as the title character, a vicious, mindless killer who strikes when you least expect (one early kill, involving a rope, is as shocking as it is brutal).

The rest of the cast is so-so, and a few early sequences back at camp slow the pacing down; there’s a hot tub love scene, set to a schmaltzy romantic tune, that’s especially tough to sit through. Even when the killing starts, there are moments that feel drawn out, as if the filmmakers were trying to pad the runtime.As for the effects, they’re not the best, but are certainly better than what you’d expect to find in a low-budget horror movie, and the sequences set inside Madman Marz’s abandoned farmhouse are effectively creepy.

Topping it all off is the original song that plays over the ending credits, simply titled “Song of Madman Marz”. I absolutely love it, and rank it right up there with the title track from 1968’s The Green Slime as one of my all-time favorite movie tunes.
Rating: 6.5 of 10

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