Thursday, September 24, 2009

Review: Madman

Synopsis: A group of camp counselors find themselves the victims of a legendary killer in the woods, known only as... Madman Marz!

Review: From the late 70's through the early 80's, it was the golden era of the slasher horror film. During this period, many played on the old standby of a killer in the woods theme ("The Prowler", "Don't Go In The Woods", "The Burning" and, of course, "Friday the 13th"). By 1982, this had become "old hat." Yet, late in the game, here comes "Madman"! The basic plot is what you would expect: Some camp counselors wind up as the targets of a legendary kill-crazy farmer, appropriately named, Madman Marz. It is a completely predictable and by-the-numbers slasher formula.

The acting is, as is usually the case in most low-budget slashers, almost non-existent. Save for the character of Betsy (played by Gaylen Ross, under the name "Alexis Dubin," as I guess she didn't want it to be known she was in a cheesy slasher flick), none of the characters gets developed enough to the point you know or care about any of them. The killer isn't really developed any, either, as he is portrayed as the typical "super-human" maniac, showing incredible physical strength and speed, beyond any mere mortal. It's said he murdered his family, but you never really learn why, as the script is more interested in setting up hokey hot-tub scenes, in an effort to provide the prerequisite nudity in such films. Everything just plods along in a very predictable manner.

So, what you are left with is the special effects and atmosphere to provide you any real entertainment. Fortunately, it actually does. One of the things I really liked about the setting, is how well they played up how easy it is to get lost in the woods at night. The sameness of the surroundings actually helped convey a sense of tension in not knowing exactly where you are. And since this is a time before the advent of cell phones, it comes off somewhat realistically. Of course, some of that is undone by a soundtrack which, at times, sounds like someone who got their hands on a Kasio keyboard and suddenly thought they were John Carpenter.

As for the killings themselves, it's a mixed bag that ranges from the extremely gruesome to the extremely phony! Although, some of the kills are pretty inventive, like the one where the girl is beheaded by the hood of the car she is trying to get working. I also like that they tried to keep the killer more to the shadows for most of the film. Something that might have been more out of necessity, than to illicit a sense of mystery, as when you get a good look at the killer the cheapness of the effects shows how much they lacked a budget here.

In the end, the film is merely a typical example of the schlocky early 80's slasher formula. It could be entertaining for those who are fans of the genre, or those who love to mock it. Otherwise, you can probably pass on it. It's simply another unoriginal slasher film, that looks extremely cheap and has not aged very well. Might make for a good Halloween party film, though, as it comes off as the technological equivalent of telling a ghost story around a campfire.

Rating: 2 Stars (out of 4)

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