If you a seasoned veteran reader of The Horror Syndicate website, you may know that I am obsessed with Italian horror, zombie flicks and slashers. If you aren’t a seasoned reader of the site, to me, the slasher sub-genre is above all my favorite. So many great ones came from the 1980’s. It’s estimated, that over 300 slasher flicks bombarded the living rooms of thousands of horror fans during that decade. Holy Shit! I think you can see why it is my favorite sub-genre. So, I decided to dust off one from my collection that is a somewhat underappreciated and unnoticed one. Let’s take a look at 1982’s Madman.
Madman starts up just like dozens of other camp themed slashers did. With a midnight campfire tale. This tale speaks of the crazy farmer that still lurks in the surrounding woods, the tale of Madman Marz. The story warned of ways to steer clear of Marz’ deadly rampage. Don’t wander the woods alone and don’t utter Madman Marz’ name louder than a whisper. Pretty simple I’d say. Well as you can imagine, one of the smartass camp counselors began yelling Marz’ name to the rest of the group and so now, the slaughter can commence.
Madman was the brainchild of director Joe Giannone and write Gary Sales. Initially, the film was supposed to follow the infamous urban legend of the Cropsey killer as the antagonist. But before shooting began, the production team caught wind of another film starring the aforementioned maniac. That ‘other’ film would eventually become Tony Maylam’s The Burning (1981), so the writers quickly re-scripted changing the killer to a psychotic farmer.
Madman starred a mostly unknown cast, with one bright light, Gaylen Ross (Dawn of the Dead, Creepshow). But for some reason Ross decided to use the screen name Alexis Dubin, but it was her for sure. The overall acting albeit Ross was really bad in this one, as is with a lot of slashers. So that wasn’t a big deal. The special effects team led by Richard Alonzo though, gave us a gloriously bloody affair. There were some great decapitations. Which in terms of horror films, sometimes is the only redeeming factor.
Fresh off the heels of the success of Friday the 13th, the slasher genre was really just building momentum. So, at the time instead of perfecting the wheel, this wheel if you will, was still mimicking its predecessors. Madman felt like a complete Friday the 13th cash-in. Which hindered this film in every way. Watching the flick again, I noticed something I hadn’t the first go around. There were actually more counselors than campers in this film! Maybe four or five kids tops. Possibly because of budgetary restraints, but that fact really amused me.
Over the years, Madman has garnered quite a cult following. The fine folks at Vinegar Syndrome even released a beautiful restoration of the original negative print on blu ray in 2015. While Madman is a decent slasher, to me, it doesn’t stand up with the other really well done slashers from the same era (The Prowler, The Burning). This is just my opinion obviously, because the film has stood the test of time. If you are a horror enthusiast, you need to view this film and judge for yourself.