Joe Giannone’s Madman was possibly the first knock-off of Friday the 13th (1980).
It’s the final night of the season at a summer camp and a group of camp counsellors and preteens sit around a campfire attempting to scare each other with spooky tales.
Max (Frederick Neumann, appearing here as Carl Fredericks) – the head counsellor – tells the story of a local farmer named Madman Marz who hacked his family to death with an axe before vanishing into the dark woods. Legend has it that if anyone speaks his name above a whisper, he will return for you.
Cocky teenager Richie (Tom Candela, billed here as Jimmy Steele) decides it would be a good idea to call out his name to the surrounding woods – and when they come a-callin’, he comes a-killin’.
Madman is hailed as a cult film by many fans but it really is a tedious, unremarkable, by-the-numbers offering: the script is beyond hokey, the acting is poor, the editing is sloppy, the synth score is annoying and the villain is the least scariest maniac in film history – an ogreish redneck in overalls with a clearly prosthetic face.
There are a couple of gruesome killings – a couple of headless corpses that are clearly shop dummies splashed with fake blood, a reasonable hanging from a tree, a few dreadful axings, and an impalement on a hook – but even the murder sequences are largely anticlimactic.
The entire film is shot at night with poor lighting, making the action very difficult to see.
Originally based on the upstate New York urban legend of Cropsey, the film’s premise and villain were both changed at the last minute when the production team discovered that The Burning was filming at the same time.
Gaylen Ross (as Alexis Dubin)
Tony Nunziata (as Tony Fish)
Tom Candela (as Jimmy Steele)
Frederick Neumann (as Carl Fredericks)