I Madman (1989 USA)

i-madman-scream-factoryA young woman, Virginia, is obsessed with reading bloody horror novels. She recently discovered the oeuvre of a bizarre but stylish writer named Malcolm Brand. His book “I, Madman” fascinates her, describing the acts of a horribly deformed doctor who kills people in order to make an actress fall in love with him. But fiction turns into reality when Virginia finds herself chased by the book’s eerie doctor.

Director Tibor Takács brings us quite a startlingly original slasher with imagination to spare, if the viewer can give over to the supernatural aspect of the story. In regards to the madman’s ability to manifest from words to flesh, committing his grisly deeds on the streets of Los Angeles, I feel derives from the reader’s complete belief in the printed material. He wasn’t real until the fear of him become so vivid. Virginia, in essence, gave him life…his shape and form evolve from a written work into a true being. Perhaps it took both the reader and the writer himself to make this unbelievable situation come to fruition.

When delving into the author’s life of “I, Madman” (and another novel, which featured a created monster by a Dr. Kessler, who actually leaps from the printed page to kill Malcolm Brand) Virginia finds that Brand himself believed wholeheartedly that what he wrote was real not fictitious. So perhaps the killer without a face, was given birth thanks to the writer and reader’s complete faith in what was written.Besides all that Freudian jazz, the film has a wonderfully morbid atmosphere, and I thought Tibor Takács’ film was very much in the Argento vein: a grotesque killer wielding a blade, slicing and dicing with a baffled police force working all hours to catch him.

I Madman still 7Throw in a female character, whom everyone believes is nuts, caught in the whirlwind of a surreal nightmare as she helplessly finds all those she knows being killed. The film is skillfully photographed (while his credits aren’t eye-popping, Bryan England’s sophisticated camera-work and vibrant colour hearken back to Argento films like “Suspiria” and “Inferno” and there are several stunning shots of the killer from afar using shadow and light) with a visual flair  and intoxicating energy. Not to mention there’s some dark humour to spare, including a hilarious interrogation scene where Virginia attempts to tell the police about who is responsible for the murders and their priceless reactions to what she’s saying.

I think the premise might have viewers scratching their heads as it is indeed quite an outrageous story, but I ate it up. I loved the use of Los Angeles and I found the way the director edits the novel sequences (based in the 1950s) into the modern story, strikingly integrated. Jenny Wright ably fills the lead role – projecting a frightened woman who knows that the truth about her killer is as far-fetched as they come. She doggedly pursues his capture, and often finds him one step ahead of both her and the police.

The creature which makes a grand entrance at the end will remind fans of Tibor Takács’ kiddie horror outing, “The Gate”, for it resembles the demon minions from the hole in the backyard of that film. The library scene (where the police stake out the wrong library) is very ominous. Life just keeps on getting harder for Virginia, who must somehow, someway convince her boyfriend that the psychopath is indeed from the same horror book she is reading. Love the book store Virginia works in…books are stacked and scattered in clusters all throughout the building and the climax works wonders in this setting. This is one of those trashy fun horrors that were so typical in the 80s.

I Madman still 1

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