Directed by Joe Giannone.
Starring Paul Ehlers, Gaylen Ross, Tony Fish, Harriet Bass, Seth Jones, Jan Claire, Carl Fredericks and Jimmy Steele.
A summer youth camp group is warned to never call out the name of local killer Madman Marz in case he comes looking for fresh kills. Unfortunately, that is just what one cocky kid does and within minutes the Madman is back…
Along with The Burning (1981), Sleepaway Camp (1983) and the most famous example Friday the 13th (1980), Madman is part of the summer camp horror sub-genre of slasher flicks that took a firm grip of the American imagination during the early 80’s.
Informed by a love of camp fire tales of urban legends and mysterious killers, the goal of one of these films is to move fast, explain little and generally scare the bejesus out of the audience. In that sense, Madman succeeds in its aims.
The story starts out around a camp fire, as all classic tales of this sort do. Senior camp instructor Max (Carl Fredericks) tells the assembled youths about a local serial killer Madman Marz who chopped up his wife and kids. He specifically warns the youths not to call out his name, or he’ll come back looking for whoever woke him up and smash an axe in their skull. At this point, Ritchie (Jimmy Steele/Tom Candela in the extras) takes it upon himself to stand up and holler Marz’s name. Horrified, Max brings a swift close to the gathering, after the younger kids become – understandably – very upset on hearing the story. Everyone then goes to bed, though no one gets much rest…
And from that point on the Madman is back and stalking them all. Scenes of unsettling terror await…
Madman is mostly curious in that its cast of kids are resolutely normal and likeable. Often with slasher films, you’re cheering on the bad guy just because the victims are so bloody annoying. That’s not the case here, so it’s all the more horrible when another one gets killed.
Aside from that, there isn’t much in Madman that will surprise, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, a central part of the charm of slasher movies are their intrinsic familiarity. They tap into the mythology and key ingredients of legends, borrowing from folklore and whispered tales, hinting at the primordial fears that remain rooted in every psyche.
Both Madman and The Burning were inspired by the infamous Cropsey legend, and this sharing of the familiar is further evidence of the need to tell and re-tell stories that become staples of horror.
The tense build up works well to support this feeling of age-old dread, and the original theme and music (Stephen Horelik) will get stuck in your head for days after watching. The main ‘problem’ with the film is that it all too often goes into slo-motion, with Marz occasionally reaching parodic levels of plodding around.
In terms of the Blu-ray transfer itself, the quality is excellent, with brand new 4k and high-definition transitions showing off Marz’s murderous rage in full gory detail. All in all then, a good shocker with a few genuinely scary moments inflicted on its likeable cast.
The blu ray package is full of features exploring the film and its legacy.
- Audio commentary with director Joe Giannone, Madman stars Paul Ehlers and Tony Fish and producer Gary Sales
- Audio Commentary by The Hysteria Continues
- The Legend Still Lives! Thirty Years of Madman – a feature-length retrospective documentary on the slasher classic including interviews with various cast and crew
- Madman: Alive at 35 – Sales, Ehlers and star Tom Candela look back at the making of Madman, 35 years after it was filmed
- The Early Career of Gary Sales – the Madman producer discusses his career in the film industry
- Convention interviews with Sales and Ehlers
- Music Inspired by Madman – a selection of songs inspired by themovie, including the track ‘Escape From Hellview’ from former CKY frontman Deron Miller
- In Memoriam – producer Sales pays tribute to the some of the film’s late cast and crew, including director Giannone and actor Tony Fish
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- TV Spots
- Stills & Artwork Gallery with commentary by Sales
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin
- Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic James Oliver, illustrated with original archive stills and posters
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert W Monk is a freelance journalist and film writer.