A. Griffiths | London | 09/14/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Madhouse" is one of the better films that was previously on the "banned" list of so-called video nasties in the UK. Which is why I originally sought it out in the 1980's. It didn't really deserve it's place on the list, but it's easy to spot the scene that probably put it there...which I will get to later.
Built around a slasher/crazed relative plot, the film stands above it's rivals due to some really good cinematography. The story tells of a young teacher named Julia (Trish Everly) who has lived under the shadow of her abusive sister Mary since childhood. Her adult life has been relatively peaceful until news reaches her that Mary is suffering from a disfiguring disease and wants to see her. Julia's visit to the hospital is one among several scenes that stayed in my mind. As she walks through the ward, the atmosphere is quite dreamlike, with the room seeming like a huge white theatre, festooned in curtains. Mary makes for a rather belligerent and ungrateful patient however, and Julia's life is turned upside down by this encounter with her cruel sibling, and in the days following the visit, people around her start dying.
The film is enjoyable and capable of sustaining interest throughout it's running time. Trish Everly makes a very likeable heroine, and a lot of trouble is taken to gain the viewers sympathies for her, especially in the early scenes set in the school for deaf children where she works. She's rather timid, but armed with a fairly good script, she makes for an appealing heroine. Another good character is the fiesty girl friend who agrees to sleep over in Julia's apartment when events start to take a more sinister turn. Sadly this companion soon falls prey to Mary's brutal scheme to terrorize Julia all over again, and left only with a boyfriend who is conveniently never on hand when he is needed, it is left to Julia to find the strength to somehow outwit her sister.
Although some of the time the action can get rather slow, the film features two pretty over-the top gore scenes that seem almost out of place in a movie that exercises restraint in most aspects. The most infamous sequence is the one that shows just how you can put down a dangerous attacking rottweiler with a handy power drill. The other is an axe attack that is so drawn out it becomes almost surreal. The only things letting the film down are some rather over-the-top performances from the supporting cast, such as Julia's landlady and her Uncle James, both of whom are very eccentric and colourful weirdos. But they certainly enliven the action, unlike the character of Mary, who appears on screen with pantomime-style evil rantings and some very unconvincing looking "facial disfigurement" make-up. This may be due to it having been laid on with a trowel in an attempt to disguise the fact that the two sisters look nothing like each other - despite the fact that they are supposed to be twins!
The old Medusa pre-cert release (in the UK at least) panned and scanned the picture horribly, producing a muddled mess of what is a nicely composed and shot movie. The film needs to be seen in widescreen, including all the violence, even the dog-drilling scene (don't worry, it certainly doesn't look real!). I bought the UK DVD of this whioch was let down by the sound quality - it's APPALLING. Half the time its far too quiet and even with the volume turned way up, there were times when I couldn't even make out what people were saying. A big dropped clanger there.
I hope this has been corrected in the R1 disc...it certainly has a better cover. I am glad to see another release of this and hope we get more along these lines... if they can give DVD releases to other, far inferior video nasties like "Unhinged", I guess anything is possible.
"Many people visit, few ever leave... the madhouse!!!".
Puzzle box | Kuwait | 01/28/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Ovidio G.Assontis' Madhouse is a pretty good slasher film which offers plenty of mood and bloody violence. This obscure little gem appeared on the infamous 'video nasties' list, although directed by Italian filmmaker Ovidio G. Assonitis and featuring a largely Italian crew Madhouse was filmed entirely in the U.S. and despite being labeled as a giallo it plays more like an all-out slasher film and, indeed the film's prime inspiration would seem to be the numerous American slasher films of the early 80s. Fortunately though, Madhouse avoids the pitfall of becoming yet another cliche slasher flick with dumb teenagers getting killed by a masked killer and instead focuses on an adult heroine and her bond to her psycho twin sister. Julia Sullivan (Trish Everly) is a talented teacher at a school for deaf children, and apparently has it all: good looks, nice job and a steady boyfriend. However almost no one close to Julia knows that she actually has an identical twin sister, Mary (Allison Biggers). The two twin sisters have always had a pretty difficult relationship. The cruel and sadistic Mary used to taunt and torment Julia endlessly as they grew up, as a result Julia has broken off all contact with her twin whom she has not seen in seven years. Now it seems like Mary's been confined to a hospital and looks hideously deformed. Julia's uncle Father James persuades Julia to visit her suffering sister Mary, she is unaware of the horrific sight that will befall her. After seven years apart an unrecognisable Mary grabs her shocked twin and threatens to terrorise her all over again. A hospital night porter is killed by a dog as Mary tries to escape, and Julia's friend too encounters a vicious dog which takes her by the throat. The gore scenes were great but there were very few, my favorite scene however was during the first 5 minutes or so, I thought it was brilliant and quite shocking but the rest of the film was really tame and wasn't that violent until the ending of course, but I still didn't think it lived up to the first few minutes of the film. Trish Everly was pretty good in the lead role as Julia but some of the supporting actors are way, WAY over the top especially that annoying psychic landlady who lives in the same apartment (watch as she flees from the serial killer, I dare you not to laugh). Still in spite of the mediocre cast and characters, MADHOUSE nevertheless has plenty of good things going for it too. Technically the film is very well-made and the cinematography by Assonits' regular cinematographer Roberto D'Ettorre Piazzoli is very stylish and nice-looking. It captures many of the film's effective locations to good effect, such as the large dimly lit basement in Julia's house and the hospital room where Mary is kept: a large, weird-looking room fulled with plastic curtains. The film also has a brilliant twist that was unexpected, this nice twist injects the extra life that the film really needed, and it is in its last third that Madhouse really shines (it is also here that all the best gore scenes occur). Overall I have to say that Madhouse was a great slasher flick and was quits an unforgettable little thriller/slasher film that I highly recommend to hardcore horror fans, check it out."