I’m always leery when a movie kicks off with a Bible quote. There have been more than a few movies before that have played fast and loose with this book, and it always, inevitably, pushes me to cross-check. A movie that gets the quote right gets a little extra respect. A movie that botches the quote loses pace from the very beginning, and generally winds up struggling. But indeed, “Madness”s opener, “There is no fear of God before their eyes…” (Romans 3:18) is exactly right. Congrats, fellas…you’d have to show kittens getting fisted in the park to get less than a two-star from me now.
So what we have here is a boy gone mad and the women he terrorizes. A young man, obviously disfavored, is in the house with his stepsister and her friends in the midst of a snowstorm. By the time the power goes out and the body count starts piling up, we know something’s about to go wildly wrong here.
After the first two minutes, perhaps the biggest surprise comes into play. I’m genuinely interested in seeing what happened to this guy to bring him to this kind of ranting, seething, screaming-at-the-camera state. Especially in light of what he starts doing down in the basement just a couple minutes later.
Rolling on through the first half hour, it becomes plain that Johns and company REALLY know how to make their horror. “Madness” is well on its way to being a first-tier suspense / horror film. Even better, Johns’ script slings surprises left and right at the viewers. All manner of strangenesses will crop up with little or no foreshadowing. And then, after a while, you can’t help but start connecting the dots. Trust me on this…when you start thinking about what’s in the basement against what’s going on upstairs, this incredible cold dread starts building up into one inescapable conclusion:
Something will go very wrong here. And soon.
Which becomes perfectly clear at the forty five minute forty six second mark, as the bodies pile up like cordwood in the snow outside. And the girls in the basement playing amateur CSI at fifty five minutes is a treat. Even better, this leads up to one of the best shocks in the movie.
Although, given the political climate, it may not have been the best of moves for Johns’ script to explain, at the fifty seven minute eleven second mark, how to use potassium permanganate and glycerin as a weapon. Stranger still, that Bible quote up front isn’t the only Bible reference we’ll get out of “Madness”. Indeed, a decent chunk of the plot is inspired from Joseph and Potiphar’s wife. The joke there is, I’m not kidding. This is really taking place. Of course, Joseph never rigged up a firebomb in Potiphar’s basement, but hey! The ending is a calculated series of suspense building leading up to a terrific climax.
All in all, Johns’ “Madness” proves to be a spectacular suspense thriller, with all the makings of a first-rate horror film. This incredible mix of shock, surprises and assorted lunacy makes for a great viewing. If you can find it, see it.