I, Madman (Arrow Recommends)

Last Updated on August 5, 2021

"Arrow Recommends is a column that has my sorry ass advise older movies to your royal asses. I will be flexible in terms of genres i.e. I will cover whatever the bleep I want. For now, it will be the way to keep my voice on the site."

PLOT: Virginia (Jenny Wright) works at a bookstore and loves devouring them old pulpy horror novels. But when she starts reading Malcolm Brand’s work; the madman in the book (Randall William Cook) somehow seeps into her reality and he’s in a pissy, slice and dice mood.

Stop it! Stop it! I closed the book! – Virginia

LOWDOWN: In 1997, Director Tibor Takács hit pay dirt with the kid friendly horror flick THE GATE, which was a box-office hit. His follow up I, MADMAN in 1989 got the opposite reception – it seriously tanked. I remember gawking at the I,MADMAN Fangoria cover in awe, jonesing to see the flick so bad back then. Alas it didn’t come out on the big screen in Canada and I had to wait like a schlep for its 1990 VHS release to finally tap it.

Over the years the film has gathered somewhat of a cult following while the primo 2015 Blu-Ray release by Scream Factory helped put it on more people’s horror-dar. And as it should. I, Madman is actually a fine horror film, one with macabre charm to spare! Written by A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2 scribe David Chaskin, this mad boy definitely pimped some Elm Street like ingredients my way. One again, a heroine’s reality was warped and bended by a mutilated supernatural loon who gets off on terrorizing her. But on this round it wasn’t dreams that did the trick, it was possessed pulp horror books.

The sly manner in which Takács jumped from reality to “book reality” was ingenious in its "matter of fact" way hence taking me by surprise a couple of times. And he also capitalized on the trippy nature of the happenings like a champ when it came to his visuals. The vibe here was part film noir and part Giallo, with some kinetic shots (loved that quick push-in down the corridor), locations that felt timeless and a mood that echoed the off the rack scummy books our lead dame was reading: 50’s pulp. How’s that for a mix! The endearing slasher tendencies and the Phantom of the Opera-ish elements were not lost on me either, with our titular psycho being in love with our damsel and going to great length to “please her”.

The cast here did it for me too! Clayton Rohner (remember him from April Fool’s Day?) did what he had to do well as the cop/boyfriend, special effects dude Randall William Cook was effective as the self-surgery obsessed killer. NOTE: He went on to win 3 Oscars for his work on the Lord of the Rings movies. END OF NOTE. But at the end of the neck snap, this was Jenny Wright’s show all the way. Like so many other genre fans out there, I fell in love with the actress when I was a wee Arrow due to her magnetism, hypnotizing good looks and outstanding work in NEAR DARK.

And at the time, her starring turn here only augmented that adoration. Wright put out a moving and vulnerable showcase and to say that the camera simply loved her would be an understatement. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. Add to all that loving; a handful of gory bits (that scalping owned) which took me aback (cause the film was more about atmosphere then red grub), a gnarly use of stop-motion (with a monster that looked like a reject from The Gate) and an overall passion for the material by all involved that oozed out every frame and you get a solid "retro and loving it" effort that juggled many horror subgenres all at once with flair. Now, that's not to say the movie didn't have its shortcomings…

There were some dumb character moves to serve the plot, with Virginia telling the police EXACTLY what’s going on (a killer appears when she reads a book) coming to mind. I mean did she really think they would buy that? I was surprised she didn't become a suspect. Come on! But the plot needed folks to think she was bonkers hence, there ya have it. The dated and messy music didn’t work in the film’s favor either. It often lessened the impact of some of the creepier/suspenseful scenes on hand. And I was I alone in thinking that it was way too easy to figure out who was gonna die next? At least try to fool me at least once! Finally, I could have gone without the cat being thrown on a desk by somebody off-screen to force a cheap “boo scare” but hey, that’s minor, the f*ck you gonna do. 

On that I,MADMAN was still a delight to take in. Its visual style, its leading dame and its wearing of its horror heart proudly on its sleeve, made this one a groovy re-watch. Give I, Madman a shot! They surely don't make them like this anymore.

Source: Arrow in the Head

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