They thought they were alone.
Year of Release: 1982
Running Time: 88 minutes (1:28)
Director: Joe Giannone
Gaylen Ross ... Betsy
Tony Fish ... T.P.
Harriet Bass ... Stacy
Seth Jones ... Dave
Jan Claire ... Ellie
Alexander Murphy Jr. ... Bill
Jimmy Steele ... Richie
Carl Fredericks ... Max
Michael Sullivan ... Dippy
Paul Ehlers ... Madman Marz
Around a crackling campfire on the last night of the season, the camp director mesmerizes campers and counselors with the legend of Madman Marz, a dark tale about a farmer who went crazy one moonlit night and axed his entire family into little bloody pieces. He warns everyone present, "Never say Madman Marz above a whisper in the woods or he'll come for you.' But one cocky teen ridicules his warning, provoking a night of unimaginable horror and blood soaked carnage for all.
Madman, the movie that reminds us that ultimately, justice will be doled out. Probably not against the person(s) that committed the infraction, but doled out nonetheless. Auto mechanics hate this movie. I mean, you can't blame 'em, it's hard enough to diagnose a problem with a car based off of nothing more than a sound or some lackwit's description of what happened. Now they've gotta deal with schitzer-doodles choppin' people's heads off an shovin' 'em down into the exhaust manifold. What an inconsiderate jerkoff this Marz guy is. Now you've gotta concern yourself with the prospect of the carburetor gettin' clogged up with face shrapnel, the spark plugs get positively drenched with blood an won't fire, an heaven help ya if an eyeball drops into the coolant tank. Now the eye itself would probably melt after the optic nerve plugs up the radiator hose, but the nerve can withstand that kinda heat an pretty quick your head gasket's got a crack the size of the San Andreas fault line. So the next time you think your mechanic's overcharging you, just take a minute to think about how difficult their job can be, under the circumstances, an quit bein' so pissy. Now, a lot of people will probably tell you that this is a second rate Friday the 13th clone an that there's nothing to be learned from it. They'd tell you that, but you wouldn't hear it cause those people have their heads shoved so far up their asses that their prostate muffles most of what they say. So let me, a learned individual, respectfully reiterate some of the teachings Madman has to offer. First thing you might not expect while dealing with a 300lb Morlock, is that they're completely at home in the trees and can move about with jaguar like agility. But I'm sure that knowledge will be wasted on you, because nobody ever looks up.
Second, public prostration of one's pride makes the panties drop. So if your girlfriend's mad at you, just admit you were wrong in public, an you'll split her defenders in record time. Or just get a new girlfriend, whatever works. Additionally, this works just as well when done specifically to get the panties to drop, but be advised, if she figures it out, you're in for some serious groin punchin'. An third, when it seems like the 300lb Morlock has your number, look to the fridge, for it is the only safe place. Plus, running for your life builds up a powerful thirst an this way you've got some long necks at your disposal. But what I'd like to discuss in greater detail is how this whole Marz run amok situation could have been prevented. Now, Marz has a bit of an anger problem. That's alright, nobody's perfect. But I think something Marz could have really benefited from, as a farmer, would have been a strip of whacky tobaccy carefully hidden inside some corn rows. All the guy really needed was a way to mellow out, but oh we can't have that. Those illegal narcotics that make everyone's brain turn to bong resin, they'll be the death of us all. Oh but here, have a bottle of liquid fire, that should smooth over that rage problem, sides it's twice as morally acceptable as the Mary Jane, even Jesus drank wine, ya know. I'm just gonna come right out an say this, the anti weed activists pretty much killed all the people in this movie. I dunno how these people sleep at night. Well, actually I suppose I do. Rather uncomfortably, on account of havin' a 2x4 backin' their Hershey Highway up clear to Colon Town. How many more gigantic angry Morlocks have to go on rampages before we do something about this? My guess is, we're gonna have to wait until some politician's children get decapitated or slung up on meat hooks before anything's done. Such is the way of things, I guess.
The movie begins at a campground, where they apparently need seven counselors to supervise 10 children, sitting around a campfire. As you'd expect, the counselors are tellin' scary stories so the kids'll get all traumatized into bein' meek, productive members of society. The last story, ready by the head hippie, is the legend of Madman Marz, who used to live in the house over yonder. Seems he was a real drunken meanie face that got his nose bitten off in a bar fight an that got him so riled up he had to go home an chop his family up into Beef Stroganoff just to cool down. Unfortunately, the townsfolk found out about it an they got all vigilantied up an strung Marz up like a deer carcass an parted his hair with an axe just to be on the safe side. Only the next morning after the townsfolk had slept off their gumption, they discovered his body was missin', an after checkin' out everybody's freezers, gave up on tryin' to find it. Legend has it, he's still out there someplace an he'll come drink all your beer an chop you up into tender vittles if you so much as say his name above a whisper. So basically he's like the proto-Voldemort. So naturally, one of the kids (Richie) stands up an yells his name at the top of his lungs an chucks a rock through the front window of Marz' homestead. Did I mention this was a camp for "gifted" children? I'm not sure what gift it is that they think this kid has, but I sure hope I never come by it. But anyway, once they break camp, Counselor T.P. (I pretty much have to. We'll refer to him henceforth as Asswipe) wants Counselor Betsy to go to their usual spot so they can make the sign of the triple jointed iguana, only she's real mad at him for scarin' the tar outta the younger girls an for singin' so bad that her ears bled all over her new blouse an tells him to get bent. So while the girls head back to camp, the guys are charged with putting out the fire, only Richie's got terminal ADD an while looking up in the trees to avoid helping, he spots what looks like King Kong watchin' 'em. Bein' the gifted child that he is, he naturally hangs back when the rest of the group heads back to camp an heads inside Marz' house to go through his underwear drawer while he's gone. Back at camp, nobody seems to notice that one of the three boys from their original head count is missing an we scan over to Betsy who's talkin' to Stacy about how she dunno what to do about Asswipe, cause it seems like all he's interested in is sex and techniques for achieving sex.
Elsewhere, you've got Asswipe an Max (Head counselor/story teller extraordinaire) trying to pull Excalibur from the stone (It sounds a lot cooler than an axe from a stump, okay?), only they're both pathetic sissies an after awhile they give up when they notice Dippy (The cook that resembles Peter Jackson after a 3 day drunk) frowning in disapproval at their wimpiness. Dippy can't stand much more of this sorry display an heads inside, only when he opens the door to the closet Marz is waiting inside an tears his throat out using his gnarled fingernails. Marz needs a manicure, like nobody's business. So while Marz drags Dippy off to his home on the rage, we've got a counselor round table sequence setup so Asswipe can apologize for the ugly scene at the campfire an give Betsy the sad face. Everyone waits around for him to apologize for his horrendous singing, but it never comes. Additionally, much like Steve in Friday the 13th, Max is headed into town for awhile. Frankly he should probably just leave the kids in charge, but it's not often that the most qualified person actually receives the job. So Asswipe an Betsy head off to the hot tub cause it's about the safest way to have sex if you're gonna forgo protection. Marz watches through the window for awhile but Betsy's got mosquito bite boobs an his interest wanes fairly quickly. Afterwards, Asswipe starts his rounds an realizes Richie isn't under his blankets with a flashlight an a National Geographic like he should be an has to go look for 'em. Betsy tells 'im to be careful but doesn't bother to mention that she just saw an extremely pale Incredible Hulk sneak into one of the buildings before he goes an before too long he starts smellin' somethin' that resembles a possum corpse that got left behind the furnace for a few months. But by that time Marz's already dropped Asswipe like a non-reality-show from a TV schedule an wraps a noose around his neck an hangs him out to dry with his whites. But Asswipe's pretty resilient an he's able to get ahold of the limb he's hung from an do the world's most difficult chin-up to get the blood circulating again. Unfortunately Marz comes back to see if he dropped his keys on the ground an when he spots Asswipe sucking down oxygen he grabs ahold of his ankle an puts him back in his place. That Marz, what a character.
So Betsy's gettin' pretty worried now that she's pretty sure Asswipe's "the one", an since he's been gone awhile, so Dave heads out to look for him so she can get back to sitting around looking concerned and constipated. Meanwhile, Marz shows those sissies how it's done, an yanks the axe outta the stump with one hand. Eventually, Dave finds Asswipe hangin' around an cuts 'im down, but he accidentally puts Marz' whites on the ground too an that sends 'im into a blinding rage, an after a few practice swings, he's able to separate Dave's head from his shoulders. By now, Betsy's getting a good idea of what it's like to be a pathetic, clingy sap, much like Asswipe, an she sends Stacy out to interrupt Bill an Ellie's fuck fest so they'll come back to camp. I mean, after they finish up of course. It shouldn't be long, it never is with Bill. Meanwhile, Marz is eyeballin' Stacy cause he heard that her palms have got it goin' on, so he starts sneakin' up on her while she tries to figure out why her yellow submarine of a truck won't turn over. Eventually she gets it goin' an drives off just before Marz can get his paw in the door. Up the road apiece, she spots Dave's lantern an pulls over. Then she spots his lifeless body an notices it's got a lot less head than the last time she saw it, an takes off, only she was so concerned about the 15 cents worth of gas the yellow submarine was gonna burn off while she was gone that she shut the engine off an getting this heap started is like tryin' to get Bill Clinton to stop nailing the interns. So she pops the hood again an starts tinkerin' with the rusted jalopy, only about that time Marz does a cannonball onto the hood an pinches her head off like a stubborn turd. Elsewhere, Bill's finished refilling Ellie's tank an they figure the best possible way to find their missing companions is to split up. In the woods. In the dead of night. Now I can see wanting to split up with Ellie, she's got serious rodent face, but this just doesn't seem like the best time. So while Bill's examining a bloody rope, Ellie spots Marz hunched over Stacy's corpse an lets out the loudest scream she can muster an runs away, dragging her feet through all the dead leaves on the forest floor in case Marz can't already figure out exactly where she is from all the wailing emissions. Once she finds Bill he puts his investigative work on hold an they head for the truck to see what Ellie was screamin' about.
It's tough, but Bill is able to completely disregard the bloody rope he'd found, and miss the face sized blood splatter on the frame of the truck, at which point they pile in an head back to camp. Or that's what they would do if the truck weren't makin' this noise like a belt sander bein' run over a pan of meat loaf, an when Bill pops the hood to check it out... oh well there's your problem, seems Stacy left her head down in here an none of the belts're movin'. This is why women shouldn't work on cars. So with that cleared up, they take off towards the camp, only Marz reaches in an grabs Bill right by his face an jerks him outta the window while the truck continues to roll. Fortunately, it finds a good sized tree to stop itself with an Ellie flops out on the ground like a wounded duck, only to see Marz out in the moonlight with Bill hoisted high over head an you just know he's about to snap into a Slim Jim. While all this has been goin' on, Richie's been dickin' around in the woods after leaving Marz' house of pain. But when he spots 'em draggin' Bill back to the ole homestead he waits for him to split again an heads inside, cause ya know, seeing one dead body isn't proof enough that something's amiss. I can see killing one person, but if I go into this guy's basement an there's a whole heap, THEN I'm gonna become a little concerned. Meanwhile, Ellie's managed to get back to the camp, only she can't find Betsy. Marz REALLY gets around quick for an ample gentleman, cause he's in hot pursuit an when he arrives he goes all Jack Nicholson on the door an Ellie has to hop in the fridge so he can't find her. Oh come on, why's the light on if she's got the door shut? Oh whatever, it's not that important. So this tactic confuses Marz so bad he's gotta go find some Tylenol cause he's got Excedrin Headache Number 5. Or at least that's what he wants her to think, cause when she comes out he buries his axe right where her jugs would be, if she had any. Betsy's off tucking the kids in, and neither she, nor they, seem to hear any of this ungodly racket. But even she can't miss the blood soaked carnage spread around the room when she returns, so she gets Max on the horn an tells 'em to get his hiney back out there cause shit's hit the fan an she's just a dumb blonde an she dunno what to do. She does at least realize that she's gonna get sued out of existence if Marz knocks off these well-to-do kids, an grabs the gun off the wall in the office an heads out to settle Marz' hash and avenge Asswipe and the rest.
Alrighty, an observation. Once you wade through all the pseudo reviews that lead with the ever so clever "Friday the 13th rip off" commentary, seems like that's about the only thing people can find wrong with this to justify the slandering. If only they knew how much their favorites borrowed from other movies they're simply not familiar with. They'd likely have a serious melt down. I think what causes this reaction is that the two came out so close together. Friday in 1980 and Madman in 1982. They do have similar plot lines, to be sure. My problem with the slander is the fact that, while Madman is unquestionably derivative of Friday the 13th, Madman did it BETTER. Madman's got more atmosphere than Friday the 13th could ever hope to have. It's also got better cinematography, and sequences are actually allowed to develop before coming to a head. Or a decapitation of said head. Which in all honesty, is something that most of these teen slasher movies really don't do. They tend to make shit happen quickly, to generate jolts. And don't get me wrong, as long as they're not coming so fast and furious you can't figure out what's happening, that's not in and of itself a problem, it's just the standard. Madman goes against the standard and generates more suspense than any three of the Friday the 13th movies combined. So the presence of suspense in these "killer in the woods" style slashers is an anomaly to be sure. But when you start getting into movies that tend to have a lot of suspense, they tend to have disappointing jolts. They build for too long and what actually happens ends up a let down. That doesn't happen here. The murders, while not particularly imaginative (although the hood decapitation was), are graphic. Madman is just so different in the way that it's shot when compared to the other "killer in the woods" titles that I couldn't help enjoying it a great deal. It's better than Friday the 13th, and many of it's sequels. It's miles better than Midnight. And it's light years ahead of Don't Go in the Woods. Maybe I'm seeing something that others don't, I dunno. But this movie just looks more more professional and well executed than seems possible with the budget they had, it's really a very impressive job they were able to do, with what they had.
It's probably wise to go into a little more detail, and acknowledge some of it's problems, since the last paragraph was nothing but praise. It does have problems, like most movies, after all. The plot, such as it is, is okay. Razor thin, but at least it does exist. It would be problematic if not for the opening campfire story detailing the backstory on Marz. That alone saves it from some serious point deduction. It's a killer in the woods movie, this kind of backstory is really all I ask for. If you've got this much, you're fine. The acting is approximately 30% as bad as people seem to claim it is. Generally speaking, it really isn't badly acted. That said, Jan Claire is pretty bad as Ellie. To be fair, she was a casting assistant an had to take the role when the original actress dropped out. It was a last minute decision that had to be made. Carl Fredericks is also poor as Max. I guess they originally wanted Vincent Price for that role, and while he would have been a lot better, I suspect they made the right decision, because Price, comes with a price. No doubt one they could not afford. Despite the decent acting, not much at all to report in the way of significant actors. In fact, only Gaylen Ross (Dawn of the Dead 1978, Creepshow) warrants a mention. She's great though. Paul Ehlers is also fantastic as Marz. Overall, the acting is just kinda "meh". A couple really good performances, a couple really bad performances, and a lot of average performances. I guess the young girl from the campfire scene was actually pretty bad too, but her part is so irrelevant it doesn't hold any bearing.
The special effects are hit an miss. MOST of the special effects are pretty good. The axe in the chest, the hanging, shotgun blast to the chest, the meat hooking, all good. Bad ones would include Harriet Bass's neck that's had its head severed, and a couple of the close up shots of Ehlers' face make-up are less than stellar. But when Ehlers is at least 15' from the camera, the effects look fine. Strange, but fine. The shooting location is nice. A genuine rustic feel. Better than some of the Friday the 13th settings, but not all of them. An overall positive force for the movie's score. The soundtrack, while sometimes cheesy, is never cheesy in places that damage the atmosphere. You can expect that these older movies are gonna have some silly music at times, but this one has it seldom, and never at a crippling moment. It actually utilizes a lot of sound effects, rather than scored music, which works in its favor. This movie has atmosphere, it's got it by the ASS. To summarize, I don't see why it's not touted as at least an above average slasher movie. Maybe it is because of the difference in its cinematography. When movies are supposed to follow a simple formula an that formula gets tweaked, some people don't tolerate it well. But I'd encourage anyone that liked any of the Friday the 13th movies to give it a shot. It may surprise you.