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By Admin | October 30, 2007

Since Halloween is tomorrow, I thought I’d talk about two of my favorite old school slasher movies that don’t involve Freddy, Michael, Jason, Bubba Sawyer or the dreadful Ghostface. Most of you will have almost certainly never seen (or even heard of for that matter) either of these, but to be a proper horror movie buff you probably should seek them out.

Madman (1982)
Easily the best of the two, from what I hear, Madman was in the process of being filmed right across the river from the similarly themed “The Burning” when someone in the crew discovered that the storylines of both films were nearly identical, forcing the producers of Madman to go do quick and dirty emergency re-shoots and editing on the project since Burning was going to be released first. However, unlike a lot of other films where radical changes so late in the production spell death, Madman was actually made much better by the modifications. If I can use “The Burning” as a guide I’d hazard a guess that Madman had originally been written as a revenge flick where some h***y camp counselors did something to Madman Marz years ago when they were but wee campers causing him to return in the present day and slaughter them all.

Not bad, but what they ended up doing was loads better. The revised story has the Madman as more of a local legend; a mean drunken lumberjack type that went crazy and killed his entire family a long time ago. The townfolk, a law and order lot if there ever was one, strung him up and bashed him in the face with his own axe for good measure. Exit Madman. Or so they though, but the next morning the body was gone; and now he roams the woods, a living ghost who watches and waits. The legend goes on that if you dare say his real name above a whisper. He’ll hear you, and if he hears you, he’ll come for you.

The film begins with this story being told to a bunch of wide-eyed kids and snickering councelors, ending of course with one of the kids yelling “MADMAN MARZ! MADMAN MARZ!” into the dark night, laughing at how funny he thinks he’s being until he sees that someone perched up in one of the nearby trees was watching them this whole time.

This all sounds kind of f*****g cheesy, I agree. But actor Carl Fredericks who plays Max, the head counselor, totally sells the Madman’s story by telling it with the just the right amount of sadistic attention to detail and little boy glint in his eye so that you never quite know if he’s just f*****g with people or if it’s a true story or what. That way when the Madman finally does appear, you get the feeling that he might not really exist at all, or at least not as a flesh and blood human being. It’s this sort of internal mystery that makes the film a lot more fun than it was intended.

All around, this is a well made low budget film. When we first see Madman Marz silhouetted by the night as he’s perched in a tree watching the counselors, it’s honestly creepy. The night photography also gives the film a nice dark haunted look. Other little details, like showing scenes from later in the film as a sort of evil premonition during the campfire tale opening, add a nice artistic touch.

Yes, Madman was made to cash in on the slasher craze, but it’s not a by-the-numbers thrown together “”flick”. There’s a lot of art and effort put in this movie and I think that the only reason that it wasn’t as famous as its Halloween and the Friday the 13th brothers is because it wasn’t marketed properly. It’s that good.

My Bloody Valentine (1981)
Not nearly as good as Madman, but leaps and bounds better most of its contemporaries; just watch how lame and pedestrian Prom Night or The Mutilator are and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Valentine is by no means a classic, but it’s got decent scares, strong direction, a fairly well thought out screenplay and some awesome locations.

Twenty years ago, there was a mine collapse in the small town of Valentine’s Bluff. The lone survivor, Harry Warden, went insane and killed the people who were supposed to watch over the methane levels and prevent such an accident. Because his victims had been at the town’s Valentine’s Day dance instead of doing their job when the collapse happened, he vowed to come back and kill again if the town ever dared have another dance as he was taken away to the loony bin.

So of course the town’s going to have another dance, otherwise we wouldn’t have a movie.

The film is a bit slow (as were most slasher’s back then) but it’s got a lot of clever bits such as the fact that no one in charge of the town is a total idiot, as they are in a lot of horror films of this vintage. When the killer starts sending actual human hearts in heart shaped chocolate boxes to get them to call off the party they take the threat seriously and eventually cancel the planned Valentine’s Day party.

So of course some people are going to have a party anyway, otherwise we wouldn’t have a body count.

The psychotic miner looks very cool, and the whole narrative structure of the thing is different enough from most slashers so as to give you some real surprises. Also, the ending has the best sustained Maniac Vs. Victim chase, second only to Friday the 13th part 2 which arguably has the best. Nobody watching this is gonna be “”Blown away” but you won’t be bored either.

Either of these two films would make awesome Halloween viewing, and if your video store has them I’m willing to bet they won’t be rented. So for this year try something a little different and give these a shot. You won’t be disappointed.

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  1. Felix Vasquez Jr. says:

    I have a Halloween entry coming up, too! Jeremy, we’re too much alike.

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