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MADISON COUNTY
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Reviewed by: Pat Torfe

Directed by: Eric England

Starring:
Katie Stegeman
Joanna Sotomura
Natalie Scheetz
Matt Mercer

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about

A car load of college-aged kids head to a small mountain town called Madison County to interview the author of a tell-all book. The book in question is on the legend of Damien Ewell, a sadistic murderer who was responsible for several grisly murders in Madison County. Problem is, when the kids get to Madison County, the author is gone and the folks there say the legend was a load of crap. However, as the kids start poking around town, they raise the ire of the townsfolk, as well as someone else.

Is it good movie?

Generally speaking, you wouldn't catch my ass in the middle of nowhere on some misadventure in a place that I've never been. Real or not, I've seen and read enough to know that there are some places that you just shouldn't go without protection and backup. With MADISON COUNTY, director/writer/producer Eric England goes with the idea that we've all heard of and seen before about kids screwing around with backwoods people. But is there enough here that England provides enough of a surprise to differentiate his effort?

In spite of its miniscule budget of $70,000, MADISON COUNTY looks better than what you'd expect. England certainly appears to have the ability to make a movie look nice with such meek funding. As for the acting, the kids do well despite being in cliché mode with some of the things that they say/do. There's actually a bit of comedy to some of the roles, which thankfully doesn't feel out of place or annoying. Lastly, despite being more in line with MOTEL HELL, the pig-masked killer is pretty intimidating, thanks in large part to Nick Principe under the mask. It seems those LAID TO REST films taught him a thing or two. Unfortunately, in spite of all those positives, MADISON COUNTY suffers from one big problem.

Let's play a game: I'm thinking of a film involving nosy teenagers who end up going into the backwoods to do some investigation, they do a big no-no and out comes the crazy to slice them up. WRONG TURN? TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE? If you answered something other than MADISON COUNTY, you've proven my point. To say that this film is derivative is an understatement. This type of film's been done to death, and that's unfortunate since the genre really needs to stay away from xeroxing itself. Stereotype hicks in a sparsely populated backwoods town that doesn't like outsiders? Check. Fish out of water teens who do something ignorant to rile backwoods people? Check. Crazy guy with a gimmick in hopes of differentiating him from the other crazy guys with gimmicks? You get the idea.

It's unfortunate, but MADISON COUNTY just can't differentiate itself enough to escape being one of those slashers you watch once and then promptly forget. Nothing really stands out from the film to make it unique, since almost everything reminds you of another film that did it before. You have to give props to England for making the most of what he was given, but who's going to remember that when the film itself isn't very memorable? England has the tools, but needs refinement.

Video / Audio

Video: The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is what you'd expect from a low budget film. The overall image appears washed-out (artistic choice, I presume), with okay detail. Black levels aren't the most consistent, but at least the picture itself is clear.

Audio: Like the transfer, the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track is okay for a film of this budget. Dialogue levels are kind of low when compared to the rest of the track. Everything else seems balanced with some moderate low-end effects to give some depth.

The Extras

First up is an audio commentary with writer/producer/director Eric England, co-producer Daniel F. Dunn, and actor/co-producer Ace Marrero. The trio have a laid-back conversation discussing the production and offering up some trivia, while also being engaging enough to not fall asleep like you would while watching the feature itself.

Also included is a Q&A from Screamfest 2011, which is your typical panel with the cast and crew.

The film's trailer is also included, along with trailers for DON'T LET HIM IN, RABIES, BENEATH THE DARKNESS, and LITTLE DEATHS.

Last Call

While not a bad film, MADISON COUNTY screams "by-the-numbers slasher" throughout its runtime. Take any slasher film involving backwoods crazies hunting people unfortunate/stupid enough to get lost in the woods, and you have this film. The extras are moderately entertaining and do reveal a bit about the production, but aren't enough to justify picking up another derivative me-too film.

ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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