It’s finally that point in the summer where we start to ask ourselves, “where the hell did it go?” Summer, that is. It’s so much more important as a kid, summer. Growing up I didn’t do too much other than hang out outside (I did grow up with no neighbours). But for one blissful week of every summer was camp in the Northern woods of Wisconsin.
And summer camps and horror movies go hand-in-hand like Bruce and his chin. Well, this week’s movie takes place at a camp…but just not at summer. I think. But since there’s a camp, that’s close enough for me!
The 1982 film Madman was originally inspired by the Cropsey legend, but another film based on the legend, The Burning, was in production around the same time. So the script was re-written to include a different story. It’s pretty much the DeFeo story. Though Madman is, unfortunately, no Burning nor is it The Amityville Horror. But it does have a summer camp. Have I mentioned that?
“It all started during a campfire at North Sea Cottages, a special retreat for gifted children…”
Madman opens with a group of counsellors and children telling stories around the campfire. One of the consellors, TP, gives his hand at song-story, which is new. But it’s the story from the head counsellor Max that truly terrifies the kiddies.
He tells them the story of Mad Marz, who lived in the home near the campgrounds. Marz was a farm and a bit of an asshole. He beat his wife and children, drank too much at the bar, and was just a general all-around dick. Then one night he suddenly went mad. He took an axe to his wife and children then went to the bar afterwards. When the locals realised what happened, several of the men grabbed Marz and hung him from a tree. But when they went to retrieve the body later, it was missing – and so were the bodies of the Marz family.
According to Max, if you say Marz’s name above a whisper, he will be able to hear you and will come for you… to kill you. One camper, Richie, begins to shout Marz’s name, thinking it all a great joke (it’s at this point that you can begin to blame Richie for everything). But Max warns him off and apologises into the night. But that doesn’t stop him from joining in chanting Mad Marz’s name loudly before extinguishing the campfire.
As the counselors and campers head back to camp, Richie spots someone in the trees and decides to double back to the Marz home alone. Shortly after everyone at the camp starts winding down for the night, the cook is killed by the same person Richie saw in the tree.
But it’s the last night at the camp, so the counselors are allowed a bit of fun while Max heads into town. In the style of every camp movie since Friday the 13th, the counselors get up to a bit of trouble. This includes one of the most awesomely bad scenes of the movie where TP and his girlfriend Betsy (Gaylen Ross) walk around in a hot tub to an awful pop song.
And if there’s one thing I love in a horror movie, it’s a bad song.
The rest of the counselors decide to get up to their own shenanigans. One plays a flute in a boat. Some others talk about the meaning of life, but eventually they notice that Richie is missing.
One by one they all go out to the woods to find the lost camper. It’s obvious that no one at this stupid camp watches horror movies, otherwise they would know not to go in the woods… alone! Eventually it’s TP’s turn to die. He’s hung from a tree with a noose, and the murderer eventually kills him by grabbing onto his legs and snapping TP’s neck. So… that’s nice?
THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT, RICHIE!
And Richie is still alive and wandering the woods, in case you cared.
But everyone in this film suffers massively from slasher-movie brain. They do all the silly things that no sane human would do. One girl is chase by Madman Marz back to the camp. She hides in the fridge (which somehow works) and then leaves only to get killed!
Betsy, who has been left alone to watch the kids, eventually sees the corpse of her friend and realises that everyone is dead and/or going to die. She finally has the sensible decision to call Max and tell him something is going on and gets the kids on a bus to get them out.
Though her sane decisions are immediately all of nothing when she tells the kids she needs to find the other counselors. I’m sorry, sweetheart, but getting the 10-year-old kids the fuck away from a literal axe-murderer should probably be your top priority.
Betsy goes to the Marz home where she tries to take Madman Marz on herself. She’s eventually impaled on a hook and killed, but not before she can take the Madman down with her.
Somehow the idiot Richie ends up surviving. He jumps in front of Max’s car, and tells him that the campfire story was true – Madman Marz is real.
Madman is by no means a standout film in the genre, that’s pretty clear. I can see why this is a bit of a cult film, though. There is quite a lot here that makes it worth watching. For one, that hot tub scene, and secondly, it’s really a prime example of watching stupid people do stupid things. It’s great for shouting your frustrations to and having a good chuckle at.
On a more serious note, I did contemplate writing about a film by the late George Romero this week. It didn’t seem right to. Romero was a director that I both loved and worshiped. My admiration for him goes beyond anything my words can articulate. His films really sparked something in me. He helped me realise that horror as a genre has so much to offer beyond a one-dimensional scare. He might be gone, but he’ll certainly never ever be forgotten.
Rest in peace, Romero.