Madman Marz is ready to kill



Ed. note- Some of the people involved in MADMAN will be at Chiller in a few weeks.  I may have to stop by and chat with them.  Sadly, Alex Dubin isn’t on the list.  As for the flick itself, read on.- P.F.



Beware the Madman Marz!


Dig past the Vorhees and Sawyers of the slasher world, and you’ll find some hidden gems.  One of them is Joe Giannone’s MADMAN, an entertaining little slasher which follows all the tropes of the subgenre, but also has enough quirks so that it stands out and makes an enjoyable impression.


After a cool credit sequence designed by Paul Ehlers, the titular Madman, the flick begins around a campfire.  You’ve seen this scene 100 times in early 80s slashers, but there are some tweaks.  TP sings a ghost story, as scenes that foreshadow the impending slaughter flash for each character.  Camp elder Max then recounts the tale of Madman Marz, specifically saying not to mention his name above a whisper.  When naive kid Richie yells out Marz’ name and challenges him, it calls out the murderous Madman for a night that most of the kids won’t survive.


Is this every other slasher made in the early 80s?  Yes and no.  Yes, it follows every trope and clings to ever cliché, and in many ways is a slave to the formula established by the first few FRIDAY THE 13TH’s.  Within those tropes, it plays enough so that it’s not just another Vorhees family knockoff.  Right from the opening credits, it informs its audience that this is off the well beaten path through the bloody woods.


That starts with the music.  Instead of aping Harry Manfredini’s iconic strings, MADMAN’s score is fully synth driven.  It’s a nice 180 from what one might expect, and falls in line with the score for William Lustig’s MANIAC.



A spirited makeup job on Madman Marz



Then there’s Madman Marz.  This slasher looks like no other, a mutated freak with claws and wild hair.  The burly monster looks like he’s part animal, devolved from human into some former state.  Credit to the special effects make up team for creating a slasher that pops out from the crowd.  And if you want proof this flick is an outlier, it’s the only one I’ve ever seen that lists “hemoglobin application” as a part of the effects team.



Some great hemoglobin application!



As for that application, the kills are pretty standard.  There’s a few beheadings (though one comes at the hands of a weapon you’d likely never expect), a lynching, a throat slash and a bunch of stabbings.  I’ve said before, the most important elements in a slasher are the creative kills and the slasher himself.  But MADMAN takes these mundane kills and builds them up with atmosphere.  The use of the woods creates confusion for the characters as one by one, they disappear, and I got the feeling that Marz was always out there somewhere.  The lighting and musical stings help the movie maintain a tension throughout, and the gore effects are well done and very bloody.  Cheers to that hemoglobin applier, Joseph Rosario!



It’s your fault everyone dies. Deal with it.



Kudos to Richie, as well.  Though he’s just a goofy kid, he screams out Marz’ name after Max tells him not to;  throws a rock at the Marz house and breaks a window;  and then breaks into the house and goes exploring.  As the entire flick revolves around going out to look for Richie (and then going out to look for the people looking for him, and so on), this kid is single handedly responsible for every death in the film.  And that takes talent.



Hey Gaylen-ummm, Alexis!



And on the subject of talent, I have to discuss the cast.  Actors make choices, and these actors make plenty of quirky choices in their performances.  Too many to list.  Directors make choices, too, including whom to hire.  Herein lies the film’s one claim to fame, as lead character Betsy is essayed by Alexis Dubin.  Who?  Well, DAWN OF THE DEAD’s Gaylen Ross, of course!  There’s been confusion for years as to why she went under the pseudonym for MADMAN, and when I asked her outright at a con, she got agitated.  I figured maybe it was a union thing, but X surmised she’s embarrassed by the flick, and she kind of confirmed it with her cryptic comments.  In a cast of, ahem, inspired performances, she’s no great shakes.  But then, neither is she in George Romero’s iconic zombie flick.  I’d have loved to gotten the full story on this in an interview, but as Gaylen informed me, she wasn’t doing press that weekend.


One last thing.  MADMAN was filmed on my native Long Island.  This puts it on the same list as SINISTER and WEASELS RIP MY FLESH.  Talk about giant swings in quality on this list.


I don’t know how hardcore slasher fans feel about MADMAN, but for me, it’s a hidden gem just like HELL NIGHT, just far enough off the map to entertain. Give it a look if you haven’t yet discovered it.  And next time you’re off in the woods of Long Island,


Beware the Madman Marz!


-Phil Fasso


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