The Madness Within has a lot of problems with a few interesting bright spots along the way. The biggest problem is Russ’ character arc is more of a flat line instead of an actual arc. As bad things happen to him, his reactions to them are just not strong enough (if there’s a reaction at all). It’s like the character jumps out of a two-story building (which is terrible), but we really need him to fall at least five to ten stories instead.
In the end, Russ comes off as more depressed when distraught would have been the better choice. One example I can point to when Russ does coke in the film, which is often. Now it’s some really weak s**t because it appears to have no effect on him. I think director Williams is trying to show the emptiness of the L.A. party lifestyle, but it just doesn’t get gritty enough or dark enough. Just doing bad things to characters is not enough, the actors have to react appropriately and make us go on that slow descent into madness along with the actors.
“There’s a sweetness to the ending that…comes out of nowhere…”
The other issue I had is the sound. It’s inconsistent. Some scenes are muffled. Some have too much ambient noise. There’s a phone conversation that cuts back and forth quickly between characters. On one end, the background is silent, and the other has loud background noise. It’s annoying.
I mentioned bright spots. The Madness Within makes good use of stock footage to set the right tone and fill the transitional gaps that most indie films just can’t afford to shoot themselves. Exteriors of L.A. help reinforce the film’s location. There are shots of a lavish vacation in either Mexico or the Caribbean, and Williams cleverly blends them into the footage he actually shot for the film. If you’re not paying attention, it feels seamless. It’s just the effective use of inexpensive resources and services available to filmmakers for very little money. It’s incredible how much it can elevate your film in the end.
I’m also intrigued by the ending. I can’t really get into it in much detail without spoiling, but I’ll just say it reminded me of the faith film I watch as a teen at church. Part of me wishes those films also had scantily clad extras and nudity like The Madness Within. There’s a sweetness to the ending that I liked. It comes out of nowhere, and I couldn’t help be drawn to it. Just not enough to save the film in the end.
"…can he save his own soul and his best friend’s from the pit of madness they’ve fallen in?"