The Schlock VaultRating: 3 of 5 yaps
A marginal, largely-forgotten early-80s slasher film that is clearly trying to capitalize on the success of “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th,” “Madman” still manages to carve its niche in cheese.
It’s not surprising, then, that “Madman” takes place at a “camp for gifted children,” and happens to sit just scant yards from the house where a deranged farmer once murdered his family with an ax (or so legend goes).
Marz, as the man was known, was hanged by the townsfolk, but when they went to retrieve his body the next morning, it was gone, and Marz was never seen again.
Fast-forward to years later, and a group of campers are telling the story, with the local warning being not to say Madman Marz’s name louder than a whisper, lest he come find you. Of course, immediately one knucklehead taunts Marz, setting up the events of the film.
You could write a “Stupid Things People Do in Horror Films” book and fill it with moments from this film. In one scene a woman is being chased by Marz, and she hides in a refrigerator.
Victims pass up obvious chances to escape, including one character who is literally driving a bus to freedom, then stops and decides inexplicably to stay behind to rescue all of the people Marz killed. One character sees Marz from afar as he handles a victim, waits about 5 seconds, and lets out a blood-curdling scream, instantly cluing Marz in on where she is.
And of course there’s the classic look around slowly, then step back slowly into the killer. What’s the fascination with looking around at everything else, but not where you’re walking?
Yes, she frantically opens the old-fashioned fridge, empties it, and hops in. We don’t see Marz’s reaction to this but I like to imagine him standing there looking at the food on the floor, trying not to laugh out loud. He pulls the old “hide in the next room, and wait for the idiot to come out” trick…think she falls for it?
There’s a completely confounding hot-tub love scene where the two lovers spend about a minute whirling and twirling in the hot tub before finally getting down to it. They seriously move around the hot tub and spin around as they do so as bad early-80s lite-rock plays in the background.
Madman Marz’s look is somewhat inconsistent. For most of the film we see Marz only in shadow (a good strategy on the part of the filmmakers), but often we’re clued into his presence by his hand gripping some innocuous object that, in real life, he would have no reason to reach for.
His look is pretty derivative–he’s sort of a cross between Jason Voorhees and Leatherface, though he doesn’t wear a mask. He’s a hulking beast, stocky with a silly almost pig-face and chubby digits with long black fingernails.
The most ludicrously fun death scene involves a young woman who is trying to get her truck started. She’s fully under the hood trying to fix it, when Marz comes crashing down on the hood. Somehow this decapitates her, leaving her head under the hood.
Moments later, two of her friends show up at the truck separately (they don’t even know she’s been there). They proceed to casually get into the truck with the intention of starting it up and leaving, without knowing where she is.
One interesting bit of trivia: “Dawn of the Dead” star Gaylen Ross (sporting long blonde tresses) also stars in this film, but she is listed as “Alexis Dubin.”