It’s the end of the season at the North Sea Cottages, a summer camp retreat for gifted children, the counsellors and their charges sat around the fire as Max tells inappropriately scary stories, something to keep them all awake through the last night before they pack up and return home, the legend of Madman Marz who used to live at the abandoned farmhouse beyond the forest before he murdered his family.

Max cautioning the others that Marz’s name must never be spoken above a whisper lest he be summoned to resume his killing spree, while Betsy later chastises Max for leaving some of the younger children in tears T P takes it as an opportunity to mock the legend, but none of them realise that one of the older kids, Richie, has become separated from the group and found himself at the supposedly haunted farmhouse…

Originally released at Hallowe’en 1981, Madman is a low budget independent horror which obliged some of the cast to adopt pseudonyms to allow them to work on the non-union project, thus Dawn of the Dead’s Gaylen Ross was credited as Alexis Dubin for her role as Betsy alongside Tony Fish and Harriet Bass as T P and Stacy, their names presumably inspired by the shooting location of Fish Cove in Long Island.

Intended to play off the urban legend of “Cropsey,” produced concurrently with The Burning the decision was made to rewrite the story to avoid direct competition and make it less specific, the titular Madman Marz (Paul Ehlers) becoming an off-the-shelf killer as dull and predictable as his generic kills, the blame entirely at the feet of writer and director Joe Giannone who for his antagonist created a lumbering elderly farmhand devoid of presence or personality and unsurprisingly struggled to make him menacing.

The “gifted” children safely tucked up in bed, they might have had more wherewithal and done better than the counsellors who are supposed to be supervising yet enter the woods one by one to be murdered without fanfare or originality, deliberately moving slowly to make it easy crawling rather than running when attacked, or in the case of Ellie (Jan Claire) pointing and screaming rather than trying to help her boyfriend Bill (Alex Murphy) then later hiding in a fridge, the former contents of which strewn across the floor might provide a clue as to her location.

Betsy fumbling her bid for the final girl hall of fame when she calls Max (Carl Fredericks) at the local bar rather than summoning the police to attend before picking up a shotgun which might have been handy had it been around earlier, perhaps most frustrating is that other than some obvious day for night footage Madman is actually well shot, every plodding movement and excruciatingly delayed attempt at self-preservation destined for a life longer than that of the characters.

Madman will be available on the Arrow platform from Monday 24th June



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