Sunday, April 4, 2010

Madhouse (1981)

I've always enjoyed the works of producer Ovidio G. Assonitis, an Egypt-born man with Greek parents who made a lot of Italian movies with mostly American actors. While his movies rarely had that special personality, many of them are odd mixes of very commercial theme and more arty stuff. Take a look at Stridulum which is probably of the most confusing movies I've seen - but it's great! Another flick that gained some notoriety was Madhouse, made in the height of the slasher-wave, but never really got the attention that it deserves. Madhouse is hardly a masterpiece, but it's hard to not totally dislike it.

A convincing Trish Everly (who according to IMDB only made one movie, this one - which is a pity, she's nice actress) plays a teacher, Julia Sullivan, in a school for the deaf. She likes it there, but as everyone in this world, she also has dark secrets. In her case it's a deformed, psychotic twin-sister! The sister is of course locked up, but escapes one night. This don't seem to concern so many people, which is weird, but Julia gets more paranoid - and when she finds scratches from dogs claws on her door and one of her pupils gets killed by a dog she understands that something is terribly wrong - because her evil twin-sister is a dog lover an has her own killer dog! In just a couple of days it's Julias birthday, and that will be a party she'll never forget!

First the bad thing. The script. It has a lot of good ideas, but there's no build-up. No tension, no sense of danger in the history itself. There's a mayor twist in the middle which just don't work, because it's revealed in such a way like we should have known about it the whole time - like there's scenes missing or something. It's meant to be a surprise, but when it happens we just shrug our shoulders and wait for the next killing. It's a pity really, because all the actors are good, great or even excellent and clearly makes the best they can with the script. Of the minor characters, the hysterical landlady (Edith Ivey) is very funny and weird, but manages not to be a cartoon - but it's very close!

The good thing is that this movie looks fantastic. The budget seem quite high, because the production values when it comes to lightning, cinematography, sets and directing is way better than a lot of other similar movies from this time. It has the classy style of Amityville, Halloween and other more mainstream horror movies that where so popular. Ovidio G. Assonitis directs himself and shows a lot of style, which makes it so much more fun to watch. There's nothing lowbudget about it.

But here it also differs from those bigger mainstream movies it looks like. The gore. It's far away from the classic shockers, but this is still one violent and gory movie. Lot's of blood and graphic mayhem, most of the time with the dog who do most of the killings, but also some gory stuff involving knifes and axes. There's also a scene which sensetive dog lovers will have a hard time watching, even if it's fake of course - but it's a great scene!

Madhouse is far from perfect, but Ovidio G. Assonitis direction, the actors and the gore makes this a nice little forgotten eighties horror movie.

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