2 out of 5
Directed by: Joe Giannone
As a horror fan, I’d like to think I’m familiar with the sliding scale of quality. The glut of post-Halloween slashers, for example, aren’t to be rated on “traditional” qualities of film goodness, but can be assessed due to a mix of factors – the kills, the killer, the suspense – and then things that are more to personal tastes, such as the amount of campiness or cheesecake one prefers. And the mix of these attributes that works for one flick surely doesn’t guarantee they work for another.
At the highest level, though, I’m just asking to be entertained. And the bar for that can actually be pretty low; just give me something to wile away my viewing time.
Madman, an early 80s slasher, occasionally gives Somethings. It shows some personality early on, with its on-the-nose “summoning” of its killer – within the first few minutes, a campfire tale is told about axe-murderer Madman Marz who haunts the house over yeaward, and a spunky camper gets up and throws a rock through one o’ them yeaward windows and yells out some baiting curses at Marz, har de har, prompting some shots of a stirring shadowy silhouette – and then odd but amusing dialogue indulgences, such as a heartfelt confession from camp leader Max (Carl Fredericks), or confessions of toxic masculinity by coolguy T.P. (Tony Fish). It also has some acceptable kills, ranging from pretty brutal stuff to the humorous, and I rather liked how dumb everyone got as soon as they’re in cat-and-mouse mode (i.e. “let’s stick together from now on, so I will go look for other people alone to tell them we’re sticking together”), but… these Somethings only get us to about 15 minutes of runtime. There’s a lot of downtime between that, spread to feature length by some of the requisite stuff – a hot tub scene – but then also a lot of pointless and meandering shots of people wandering around the camp, or the forest, and then cutaway shots of Marz walking somewhere nearby.
Speaking of whom: mad teleportation skills. Another genre trope, but the way Madman’s scenes are stitched together just makes it seem wandering, as opposed to tense, or entertainingly silly – there’s no sense of space in general, with the woods and camp existing in one homogenous space in which every location is one step away from the other, giving the impression of our victims and their stalker walking around in small circles. If the kills were more consistently worthwhile, or some of that personality that was flashed up front was peppered throughout, that would fulfill the wiling-away requirement; unfortunately, once the setup is established and the campers start going missing, it’s just a waiting game ‘tween brief splashes of blood thereafter.