I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Madman

tn_madmanThe year after FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 and THE BURNING and the year before SLEEPAWAY CAMP there was another summer-camp-slasher movie called MADMAN. It takes place on the last night at a camp for gifted children when a campfire story seems to summon an undead killer who proceeds to butcher the counselors one by one.

The head of the camp tells the killer’s legend as a ghost story to scare the kids. His name is Madman Marz, he was a wife-beating alcoholic farmer who went nuts, murdered his wife and daughter, got hung for it but his body disappeared. On the other hand it’s mentioned that he once got part of his nose bitten off in a bar fight and he didn’t even notice. So that part of the story makes him sound pretty cool. We’re all human, we have our good traits and our bad traits. Leatherface, for example, is very good at sewing.

mp_madmanThis is a cheesy movie that most people would make fun of. It looks cheap and sounds cheap, the killer usually looks like a Halloween costume when you glimpse him, it lacks the atmosphere of the more enjoyable slasher movies like the first four FRIDAY THE 13THs. Some of the editing is kind of confusing, and most of the acting is pretty bad. (I didn’t realize one of the leads was Gaylen Ross of DAWN OF THE DEAD, credited under a pseudonym). It starts off with Halloween-party-favor-style credits and then a folk song about Madman Marz. And the opening scene is very familiar – I’m pretty sure I started watching this last year and gave up right away. But this time I watched the whole thing and enjoyed it. It has alot of funny moments and unusual twists on the formula.

For starters, what’s this about it being a camp for gifted kids? Okay, they could’ve and should’ve done something more with this, I’m not sure why it’s even mentioned because the kids are barely in it and don’t use their smarts to defeat the Madman. But I like it because usually these movies promote stupidity and crassness. They’ll have a couple reasonable people as the leads but most of them are howling party people, their enjoyment of sex and drugs is portrayed as an indulgence and it seems kind of preachy when it gets them killed.

I like that MADMAN acknowledges the counselors as adults with the right to be adults. They’re friends on their last night together and it’s okay for them to celebrate. Even their wise mentor (a rugged but eloquent mustached guy, picture a high school poetry teacher who lives on a farm and enjoys mountain climbing) wants to have a beer with them. There is a hot tub sex scene but it’s not treated like fucking, it’s more like married people sex. They talk about love, they slowly circle and they kiss each other. The Madman sees it through a window and then doesn’t kill them. He probly thought “I feel bad for invading this private, consensual moment between adults.” Which he expresses as a sasquatch-like grunt.

And there are little things too, like when they’re telling the gory stories at the campfire everybody is smiling. Usually in a movie at least some of them would be getting scared and telling him to stop. But those characters are idiots. These characters know (well, believe they know) that it’s just a fictional story for them to enjoy, not to get freaked out about.

I mean, these are not counselors who play pranks on each other or call each other mean names like “dead fuck.” In fact, one counselor makes a public apology for being rude earlier at the campfire. Another makes a toast “to friends and friendship, to love and lovers.” They praise each other for “contributing to the growth of the people as individuals.” These are nice, respectful people who admire intelligence. How did they get into this slasher movie?

Well, but then they start doing stupid shit like wandering off into the woods alone, one-by-one. And they don’t seem to make any effort to protect or worry about the kids. It might be making a point that so-called smart people make the same errors as anybody else because they get cocky. I don’t know. It doesn’t seem like it’s making a point, but it might be.

Madman Marz looks kind of like a sasquatch, he’s a big strong guy with long hair and beard. At the end they’ve got pretty good makeup on him, but earlier when they show him I think it’s a rubber mask. Mostly you just see his bare feet, also clearly rubber. If you’ve seen the movie HATCHET, this guy looks and sounds and behaves pretty much the same as that character. Since he was hung he likes to kill people with nooses. And apparently he smells like ass. One of the counselors, while investigating the woods, suddenly gets a “who farted?” look on his face and says, “Smells like– AAACCK!!” as the noose goes over his neck.

These kind of gags are what kept my interest for the rest of the movie. Like the guy who, to defend himself, pulls out a wimpy little pocket knife. The girl who hides not in a closet but in a refrigerator, like Indiana Jones. The girl who gets a shotgun from the office (man, I’m surprised they don’t have that thing locked up better) but accidentally blows off her friend’s head with it. They usually don’t use guns in a slasher movie, so it’s nice to occasionally be reminded why not.

There are some good gore jokes too, like when the woman asks “Dave, are you hurt?” and then discovers that Dave has no head. (Take that as a yes.) In another scene they’re having trouble getting their truck to start and when they look under the hood it turns out their friend’s severed head is jamming the fan belt. And you gotta love the way the guy wraps the head in a towel to pull it out without his lady having to see it anymore. Quick thinking. That’s why he’s with the gifted kids.

How ’bout this gimmick? There’s an ax stuck in a tree stump so hard that nobody has ever been able to pull it out. There’s a standing offer of $100 to anybody who can do it. At one point two of the counselors put all their strength into and can’t make it budge. Of course Mr. Marz later pulls the ax out and uses it, and I am proud to say that he does it one-handed. (To be fair he does grunt a little. It does exert him somewhat to do it one-handed.)

The badass award for survival excellence goes to the girl who gets stabbed, pulls the knife out of herself and stabs back.

And I always enjoy a movie like this for the weird touches I’m not sure I understand. So one strange highlight of this one is when the woman comes out from hiding in the refrigerator. She doesn’t see Marz around so she gets a big smile on her face. She’s tip-toeing through but she has this big satisfied smile, her mouth open with her weird, sharp teeth showing. Or maybe it’s just a terror-face that’s similar to a giant smile. I’m not sure. But whatever it is I like it.

MADMAN was directed by one Joe Gianonne, who didn’t do much else. He was assistant director for THE CLONUS HORROR and NIGHTSONGS, that’s about it. He wrote MADMAN with producer Gary Sale, who has a longer resume of first assistant directing spanning from the great VAMPIRE’S KISS in ’88 to the, you know, the movie FROM JUSTIN TO KELLY in ’03.

I don’t see MADMAN as an unrecognized gem or anything like that. But it’s a watchable off-brand slasher, and that’s what I look for every Halloween. Sometimes you get tired of Pepsi, so you get a 2-liter of Go Cola from Safeway.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Saturday, October 30th, 2010 at 3:46 pm and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

27 Responses to “Madman”

  1. It’s also a Quentin Tarantino’s favorite (it was shown on one of his festivals, I believe). The man knows his horror movies: this, THE PROWLER, HELL NIGHT (another great great off-brand slasher)…
    And the song in MADMAN is so absurdly catchy. Maadmaaaan Maaaars Maaadmaaan Maaaars… come on, Vern, it IS a gem!

  2. On a related note, I’ve just re-watched POPCORN (1991) and was completely blown away by this flick’s quality. It ranks up there with ED WOOD and MATINEE in the “movies about horror movies” category.
    You can really tell it was Alan Ormsby who wrote the villain’s lines: he speaks just like the asshole director in CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS. He even quotes Nabokov’s LOLITA, for Christ’s sake!

  3. I’ve been wondering lately if any of these massacre-at-summer-camp movies have ever been based on a real event.
    Does anyobody know if there was ever a real life weirdo who killed summer campers? Or is it totally an urban legend type thing?

  4. Damn Vern, you’re on a roll here. Now I know where you disappeared to for that week or so. Thanks bud.

  5. Here’s the full list of horror films shown at QT festivals if anybody’s interested:

    Cry of the Banshee (classic horror)
    Twisted Nerve (a British psycho thriller)
    Don’t Go in the House (everybody here knows about that one)
    The House on Sorority Row (great, Vern liked it too, if I remember correctly)
    The Haunted House of Horror (excellent British horror/mystery, very bloody and arty)
    The Legend of the Wolf Woman (haven’t seen this one yet)
    The Beyond (among Fulci’s best efforts)
    Alligator (awesome)
    Frankenstein Conquers the World (a decent monster flick)
    Black Christmas (duh)
    Torso (double duh)
    The Prowler (we all love it)
    Hell Night (just re-watched it, still superb alternative horror fare)
    The Blood Spattered Bride (haven’t seen it)
    Eyes of a Stranger (one of the best slashers ever)
    Suspiria
    The Psychic
    Destroy All Monsters, Mothra, Godzilla vs The Smog Monster – top of the line Godzilla productions
    The Vampire’s Coffin (a crazy vampire rape (!) sleaze)
    Succubus (haven’t seen it yet)
    Lifeforce
    Slaughter Hotel (a great giallo with Klaus Kinski)
    What Have You Done to Solange? (the best giallo of all time)
    Planet of the Vampires
    The Thing
    Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster
    Funeral Home (a Psycho rip-off, haven’t seen it)
    Silent Night, Deadly Night
    Beyond Evil (a John Saxon ghost story)
    Mausoleum (another posession story, didn’t get a chance to see it yet)
    Madman
    Autopsy, Eyeball (absolutely great giallos – yes, even Eyeball!)
    Pretty Maids All in a Row (simply amazing movie, recently released on DVD)
    Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary
    Spawn of the Slithis (both on my To Watch list, heard they’re decent flicks)
    Screams of a Winter Night (really good pre-Evil Dead semi-anthology)

    Can’t go wrong with any of the above, I guess.

  6. Give QT credit: He loves his trash.

    Another movie he recently presented a “surprise” L.A. midnight screening and defended viciously was ISHTAR.

    Which is sorta a waste if you ask me. I get it, that movie was tainted as a total loser at the time partly (ok mostly) due to the ridiculous production troubles and budget fireworks* plus its not on DVD. Not as bad as its reputation, but then still what do you get? A mediocre big budget comedy.

    Honestly the wacky shooting anecdotes are more entertaining than the movie. Pity that bullshit killed Elaine May’s directorial career.

    *=Let’s put it this way: Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman each got $6 million for ISHTAR. Each salary alone could have fully funded PLATOON which came out that same year.

  7. I remember QT defending THE TEMPLE OF DOOM as the best (and maybe the only decent) INDIANA JONES movie. Recently, I found it out to be the truth – the second Indiana Jones film has an insane dark majesty and better action sequences than either RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARC or THE LAST CRUSADE. It’s only Spielberg movie except JAWS and DUEL that is truly nail-biting, the characters spend the whole fucking running time balancing on the razor’s edge and you almost couldn’t breath because of all the tension.
    Spielberg is a very childish and inconsistent filmmaker and THE TEMPLE OF DOOM is his only truly adult movie – with something like MUNICH or SHINDLER’S LIST or PRIVATE RYAN you can tell it’s an infantile man trying to do “grown up Oscar-winning pictures” and the results are often ridiculous.

    Still couldn’t get behind Tarantino’s “PSYCHO is a cheap TV flick, even remake is better!” defense though. I love PSYCHO!

  8. Is that Harry Knowles on top right corner of the poster?

    Temple of Doom is a great movie, but the action is not as good as Raiders. I’ve got friends who try and put a pecking order on the Indy’s, but I can happily sit through any of them. I guess Raiders would always go on first though.

  9. The original Paul

    October 31st, 2010 at 2:44 am

    Roachboy – I agree “Temple of Doom” gets a lot of undeserved stick among the great unwashed. But I don’t think “Raiders of the Lost Arc” could be accused of not being dark enough. Apart from the famous scene when the ark finally gets opened, there’s something chilling about that final scene in the warehouse. It’s not only ambiguous as far as the fate of the ark itself goes; it leaves the very real question of what the heck else they’ve got in there. So I’d say that Tarantino was “off” on that one.

    I don’t think “Schindler’s List” was ridiculous. “Private Ryan”, maybe, but only in terms of historical accuracy.

    And I love the first third of “Psycho”. Couldn’t get into it after that – the “new” heroine and hero just aren’t interesting enough as characters when compared to Janet Leigh and her predicament.

  10. The original Paul, I guess the idea was the viewers’ll follow Perkins’ storyline after that – even if you don’t care about the new characters, you still want to know if the guy’ll get caught.

    And man, isn’t it great to be talking about horror movies on Halloween? Can we all agree that TEMPLE OF DOOM is a horror movie in its ripped-from-some-dude-chest-but-still-beating heart?

  11. I always loved Temple of Doom. Not Raiders, Raiders has proven to be a perfect movie. But man, Temple of Doom is a great movie. I really wish they had made a solid Indiana Jones movie every few years. This whole waiting for the “perfect” script is pointless. People like different things, just keep trying and crank out solid ones.

    Actually, you all should really consider The Lost World, Spielberg’s Temple of Doom for the Jurassic Park movies. None of that wide-eyed wonder crap. Just dinosaurs coming to eat people and WAY better action sequences (that trailer dangling from the cliff?)

  12. FTopel> Totally agree with you about Jurassic Park 2. Only problem wth the Jurassic Park films was the lack of an Indiana Jones type hero in the lead.

  13. Roachboy – RAIDERS is a masterpiece, maybe the most influential Hollywood action movie of the last 30 years.

    But yeah TEMPLE OF DOOM rocks because its quite frankly the only INDY sequel that isn’t too derivative/rerun of RAIDERS which I think can be said for the less inspired, less fun LAST CRUSADE and CRYSTAL SKULL. Not to say those two are bad, they’re watchable but that’s about it.

    If RAIDERS molded those cheap, questionably acted 30s/40s B-adventure movies into slick A-level production values, then TOD is gleefully more self-indulgent in its pulpish roots, for good and worse with what the kid sidekick, the useless screaming damsel, and the slight if not mean-spirited racist overtones. Its really quite a wonderful 11 year old boy’s romp what with the gross dinner entries, endless army of (disposable) thugs, hearts ripped out.

    I know Spielberg and Lucas want to slightly distance themselves from it after the controversial critical backlash to the content, but bullshit: You can tell from the crocs chewing up the henchmen that Beard/Panda were grinning like a son of a gun.

  14. The original Paul

    October 31st, 2010 at 7:02 am

    Ace Mac – Jurassic Park 3 was far, far better than JP2. And the original was far, far better than either of them. I don’t know what you were watching, but to me “Jurassic Park 2” was a brain-dead pointless witless abortion of a film. The characters are completely unmemorable (and it suffers from the problem, common to sequels, of having some actors return playing characters with the same name but with none of the original characters’ charm or personality). Does anybody remember Jeff Goldblum in this movie? He was the focus of two genuinely great scenes in the original. What the fuck is he doing here?

    The deaths are both boringly obvious and maddeningly implausible – I mean, none of the marines survive, but the kids do? WTF? I could understand it if they justified this AT ALL, but they don’t.

    If I sound like I hate this film, I don’t. I just can’t see a single reason to recommend it to anybody. Everything about it is predictable. There’s no suspense, no surprise and no characters. The closest it gets to anything resembling a genuinely human moment in it is a kid’s reaction (and his parents’ reaction when he tells them) when he sees a dinosaur through his window.

    So yeah, Jurassic Park 2 is a total waste of time, and they were probably wise to just ignore it and make #3 almost a straight sequel to #1.

    I did see “The Crystal Skull” recently so I’ll try and write something on that one.

  15. RRA – I’d put the carts chase and the hanging bridge ending from ToD above any of the RAIDERS’ action sequences except for the opening boulder run (it does have the best opening of all time).

    The problem with RAIDERS is it just doesn’t have very good plot structure – there’s THAT opening, the good to great middle segment with chases and shootouts… and then it just ends (I believe they ran out of money and had to scrap the underground carts run until the next movie). The improvised ending is awesome, but it really should’ve stood on the shoulders of the biggest action piece of the movie and not just be there by itself.

    ToD DOES have great action structure where every next stunt or setpiece tops the previous one. I don’t think there’s an action movie that does it better – well, maybe MATRIX, THE ROAD WARRIOR and some of Cameron’s stuff could qualify…

    And I’d disagree it’s a movie for 11 year olds – it just has a more exploitation feel to it with crocks and a monkey dinner and sinister Chinamen and whatnot. Both Short Round and the girl get abused almost like female characters in an early Wes Craven movie.

  16. And yeah, Jurassic Park 2 is a soulless plotless characterless piece of crap that epitomizes everything there’s to hate about Steven Spielberg as a filmaker.

    The problem with the man is that he has as much Hitchcock in his directors’ DNA as he has Michael Bay. And he just isn’t able to tell the great stuff from the awful when he’s shooting something, so it all depends on the screenwriter and pure dumb fucking luck.

  17. Didn’t think Jurassic Park 2 was that bad. I thought it was better as a balls to the wall action fest than the third one. Jurassic Park 2 would have been much better if Pete Postlethwaite had been the main character and just gone round collecting hides.

  18. The original Paul

    October 31st, 2010 at 11:09 am

    Ace Mac – I agree with you about Postlethwaite, but unfortunately we can’t have the films that MIGHT have been. “The Tournament” might have been many, many times better than it actually was if Kelly Hu’s character was an actual assassin, instead of a sulky teenage girl pretending to be one.

    I actually like JP3 as a thrill ride, although it can’t hold a candle to the original otherwise. I still found it great entertainment though. JP2 just bored me.

  19. You see what you did there, Roachboy? But I guess I’m relieved it wasn’t RRA’s post turning this into a debate about Ishtar.

    Since the thread is already murdered and disposed of I gotta call bullshit on the idea of Temple of Doom being Spielberg’s “adult” movie. That’s one of those provocative statements that doesn’t hold up if you think about it for a second. I mean I like TEMPLE OF DOOM, but it’s a scary movie for little boys, it even has a little boy who wears bricks on his feet so he can drive a car and later he beats up a bunch of adults. And the love interest is a shrewish idiot, a little boy’s idea of a grown woman. I don’t at all buy that movie as being more “adult” than MUNICH’s meditation on violence and revenge.

    p.s. Spielberg secretly directed MADMAN

  20. Spoilery Madman stuff: I think the brillaint thing about Madman is the guy who starts the curse is the one that winds up surviving. I don’t think it’s quite as good as the Burning but it’s one of my favorite summer camp 80’s slashers.

    JP stuff: Lost World is a turd, a highly polished turd, but a turd nevertheless. The build-up is classic Spielberg but a lot of the action is too jokey (the single biggest collective audience groan I ever heard in my life was the scene where the little girl Gymkata’ed the raptor to death) or anticlimactic (the T-Rex gets loose in San Diego and all it does is eat a dog and knock over a gas station sign). JP3 on the other hand is a solid B popcorn movie.

  21. The original Paul

    October 31st, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Thank you Vern and Jack Burton, I agree with both of you. Good point about Short Round, Vern.

  22. Vern, I’ll man up and say I’m sorry for killing your thread and calling TEMPLE OF DOOM an adult movie. My bad.

  23. Has anyone here besides me saw ISHTAR? Just saying.

  24. I love Lost World precisely because it’s a soulless balls out action movie. What’s so great about JP1? Nothing happens for an hour. They just show off DNA cartoons and CGI (where you can still see the composite lines and they don’t look like real brontosauri). I mean it’s Jaws without the zoom/dolly shot but then really, it’s no Jaws.

    Lost World is hardcore, and eating the dog is predictable? Fuckin’ A eat that dog. And characters, I very much enjoyed Goldblum getting the lead, I remember Vince Vaughn, Julianne Moore as “science above all else” girl and her partner who knew he was going to get eaten but had to sacrifice himself to save everyone else in the hanging trailers. Paul reminded me of the hunter, which then reminded me of his A-hole partner who taunted the only harmless dinosaurs so they had to kill him.

  25. RRA: I’ve seen Ishtar and I think it’s actually pretty funny for the first 45 minutes but it completely falls apart after they get to the desert. I still say any movie that features Isabelle Adjani’s titties is OK by me.

  26. I loved THE LOST WORLD when I was younger, but I rewatched it recently and I found it totally boring. I think the problem is that compared with the original JURASSIC PARK, there are no stakes and no sense of wonder. In the original JURASSIC PARK you have a team of people sent to a mysterious island who then discover that holy shit dinosaurs have been brought back to life! But no sooner than they discover this, the power goes out and the fences stop working, so it becomes a fight to survive against the dinosaurs. You have the wonder of discovering dinosaurs, and then the stakes of having to fight the same dinosaurs. But in THE LOST WORLD, everyone already knows dinosaurs exist. They go to the island to do research and (if my memory serves me correctly) prove that a second island exists in secret. They know what they’re getting into, it’s not the same level of switcheroo that occurs when they think they’re going to a safe amusement park type of deal and end up running from velociraptors. Eventually they end up taking on some treehugging goal of saving the dinosaurs from the hunters. So not only is there no sense of wonder in these same people going back to the island against their better judgment (Vince Vaughn’s wonder and discovery hardly counts), but the stakes of survival are not the same because these people knew exactly what they signed up for. Their goals are weak compared to the primal goal of survival in the first film.

    The setpieces are staged just as well as the first movie, but without the strong spine of a good plot to hang them on, and good characters to carry them out, the movie just seems to drift aimlessly from action scene to action scene without any substance behind the style. And by the time the little girl is Gymkata’ing motherfucking raptors, yes it is ridiculous. TEMPLE OF DOOM suffers from some of the same problems, to a lesser extent. I love that that movie trades the desert for the jungle, and opens with the musical number in China, and has that awesome climax on the rope bridge, etc. But again that movie feels more like a rollercoaster ride than a real story, designed to whisk you along from action scene to action scene without the connective tissue of a good plot. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK is one of the best movies of all time in my opinion and while I like all of the Indy sequels to some extent none of them come close to its level of execution.

  27. You’re a hilarious writer. Enjoyed it.

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