Thursday, August 19, 2010

I, Madman

It seems like just earlier this week I was extolling the virtues of moodiness and dread in horror movies, and now here’s one I quite enjoy that’s meant to be more fun and silly than anything else. It does have its share of suspenseful moments, to be sure, but it’s a nice (and increasingly uncommon) experience to find a horror movie that’s trying to actually entertain rather than merely gross its audience out. Wow, do I sound like a cranky old man lately.
The film follows the adventures of Virginia (Jenny Wright), an employee of what is one of the greatest used book stores in all of film. Seriously, not only is it huge, but the books are just piled up all over the place in a seemingly intentional effort to make sure you’ll find something completely random and wonderful everywhere you look. All that and not a single discernible location for five thousand copies of best-sellers by political pundits. It’s everything a book lover could want a book store to be.

But anyway, our heroine (who completely pulls off the nerd glasses, it must be said) finds a horror novel that she swiftly devours, and learns that the author had only managed to write one other novel called “I, Madman” before retiring (as a fan of trashy 80s horror novels, I can vouch that a writer doing just one or two horror novels and then vanishing into the haze was not that uncommon at this time). Using her used bookstore connections to sort of track down a copy (someone leaves it outside of her apartment, but her only co-worker claims not to have done it), but she discovers that each time she reads about a murder, the book’s killer seems to actually appear in real life and kill someone in the same way as in the book. Can she convince the police of the killer’s supernatural origins in time to avoid the fate of the heroine in the novel?

The killer is completely awesome. He looks like a combination of Frankenstein’s monster and the Phantom of the Opera, with an origin story where he cut off his ears, nose, lips, and hair, and is now going about killing people and replacing his missing parts with theirs. There’s also another killer from the first book that’s just a straight up stop-motion animated monster, recalling director Tibor Takacs previous film The Gate. While the kill scenes are fairly bloody (especially for the late 80s, when the MPAA seemed to be spending most of its time making horror movies remove every trace of blood if they wanted an R rating), the film keeps it light by making everything hyper-stylized, giving us a great many shots of a backlit killer with fog swirling all around him, often even when he’s indoors. We also get some great scenes like the opening, where she’s in her room reading at night with lightning crashing outdoors and her one sad lamp casting spooky shadows all over her apartment. It’s like a throwback to a time when horror movies were a bit more innocent, and tried to focus on fun above all else.

Further, while this may not be the best film I review this month (or even this week, what with House of the Devil and Hour of the Wolf), I can guarantee it will be the cheapest, with it’s suggested retail price sitting at a tremendous $3.98. That’s the kind of deal you’d be a fool to pass up. You don’t want to be thought of as a fool, do you?

Rating: ***

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