The late 1970s and early 1980s saw a flurry of low budget, high gore horror films, often referred to as “Slasher Films”, hit the cinema ad VHS screens of the world. Following in the wake of the enormous success of both “Halloween” and “Friday The 13th”, these films often utilised the same basic premise, and were often barely distinguishable from each other.
In 1981, 2 films were released which both used the same North East Atlantic coast campfire legends about a local “crazy” murderer as their basis. The better known of this pair is “The Burning”, which was distributed by MGM and featured some fine effects work by Tom Savini. Arrow have opted to release the other of this pair: Madman.
The plot is simple enough: A bunch of teenagers at a camp are told a story about a local farmer who one day flipped and murdered his wife and kids. The locals lynched him for this, but found that his body (and those of his victims) had disappeared by the next morning. The teenagers are told that if they utter his name above a whisper, he will hunt them down and kill them, one by one. Undeterred by this, one of the group shout out his name: Madman Marz. He unwittingly unleashes a night of terror and death for those around him.
As with many films of the slasher boom, the plot really is paper thin. It is there to serve one purpose: to put people in jeopardy. And it achieves it’s modest goal with some degree of success. In the pre mobile phone era, being stuck on a campsite, miles from the nearest town, without a working telephone felt like being perhaps the most isolated people in the world.
As a film, Madman is pretty well made, despite the obvious at times lack of budget compared to some of it’s better known contemporaries. Despite this, the film takes place solely at night, and is actually very well lit and shot. A suitably creepy and desolate atmosphere is conjured up (no doubt thanks to the use of a actual campgrounds), and the pools of light just help to highlight that the killer could be lurking anywhere. The film does exhibit some grain, but this is to be expected. As usual, Arrow have sourced a fine print (as prepared by Vinegar Syndrome for their US release in 2015). Audio is acceptable, given the source.
Speaking of Vinegar Syndrome, this Arrow release pretty much covers all the extra content found on that release, with the addition of a newly shot intro for Arrow. As part of the package you get the film in a new HD presentation on Blu Ray, an SD version on DVD, 2 commentary tracks, 2 documentaries, sundry trailers, a look at the surprisingly large amount of music that was influenced by the film, an artwork & stills gallery, and a tribute to the cast & crew who have since died. So, your typically comprehensive Arrow package. The set also features a booklet and reversible sleeve featuring the original artwork, and a newly commissioned piece.
Overall, this is a fun little film for all you Slasher Fiends out there.