31 Screams in October, Vol. 4, #17: Madman (1982)

Posted: October 17, 2018 in Movie Review

17. Madman (1982)

Director: Joe Giannone

Starring: Alexis Dubin, Tony Fish, Harriet Bass, Seth Jones, Jan Claire, Alex Murphy, Jimmy Steele, Carl Fredericks, Michael Sullivan, Paul Ehlers

I can always tell whether or not I’m going to like a movie within the first 15-20 minutes. In the case of 1982’s “Madman,” I was checking my watch during the opening campfire scene. Based on the same urban legend as 1981’s “The Burning” (a FAR superior entry in the slasher genre), “Madman” is as lifeless as the bloody corpses its killer leaves in his wake. Part of that has to do with last-minute changes made to try and distinguish this from the earlier film. Mostly, it’s because “Madman” sucks.

The aforementioned campfire scene does what it’s meant for, and that’s introducing the cast of soon-to-be corpses as well as developing the legend of Madman Marz (Paul Ehlers). It’s as plain as day that Betsy (Gaylen Ross, credited as Alexis Dubin) will wind up as the last one to challenge Madman Marz. That’s no big deal. Where “Madman” completely drops the ball in this scene is by giving us brief glimpses of these characters’ final moments. It’s like the movie is a horny teenager who can’t control himself for more than a few short minutes.

One of the idiot kids, Richie (Jimmy Steele) doesn’t treat the legend of Madman Marz as anything more than that, and does the one thing the story says not to do: He calls out the killer’s name three times. A bit later, the kid disappears. Soon after, everyone starts dying. The makeup effects are pretty much the only virtue here, but they lack the finesse of the maestro, Tom Savini (“Friday the 13th,” “Dawn of the Dead,” “The Burning,” to name but a small few).

I received a small measure of amusement from the character of Ellie (Jan Claire), a character so broadly overacted that she allowed me to forget for a few brief moments that I was watching one of the worst slasher films ever made.  Ellie gets two death scenes; one which you think must be her end, followed later by the second one as a kind of jump scare when she’s mistakenly shot by Betsy. The first, more elaborate “death” is so laughable I briefly considered rewinding it, but that would have meant prolonging the experience of watching “Madman.”

As for Betsy herself, she’s hardly an exemplary “final girl,” though that’s more the fault of the writing than of the actor. She’s written as the “can’t leave anyone behind” type. She could have driven the bus full of kids out of the camp and been home free, but chooses instead to have one of the other survivors do it so she can go take on Madman Marz herself. This proves to be Betsy’s undoing, and does not result in Madman Marz’s demise. Oh, remember the kid who started all of this by calling out Madman Marz’s name? He lives, albeit freaked out of his mind with the knowledge that the legend is true. I guess all of this was supposed to leave room for a sequel. We can at least be grateful that never happened.

I do not know the reason for why actress Gaylen Ross is billed under a different name. I can only assume that the “Dawn of the Dead” star must have been as embarrassed by this movie as I was. This movie was so bad, my experience in sitting through it so off-putting, that I briefly considered putting a halt to the marathon right then and there. I’m glad I decided against that because it would have meant missing out on several superior titles. All I knew at this point was that I needed to put considerable distance between myself and the memory of watching this garbage.

  1. Sylvia Williams says:

    Well, that is a pretty definite and resounding “No!” to any of your horror movie followers considering this movie as a likely candidate for entertainment purposes! Thanks for the warning!

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