Madhouse Blu-ray Review

An Italian Slasher By Way of Georgia

Madhouse is an uninspired slasher from Italian horror producer cum filmmaker Ovidio G. Assonitis. The man behind such films as The Visitor and Piranha II: The Spawning gives us this Italian production made strangely enough in Georgia of all places.

Blatantly ripping off its closing act from fellow slasher Happy Birthday To Me, Madhouse has a few choice moments of its own with a killer dog. The movie has hit the cult circuit over the years under a variety of names, including And When She Was Bad and There Was a Little Girl. Filmed in the American South by an Italian film crew with a cast wildly over-acting their parts, Madhouse is mostly forgettable dreck.

Roughly following the slasher norms of the late 1970s and early 1980s, Madhouse has bits of The Omen and Halloween sprinkled into its derivative formula. A few horror movies over the decades have dabbled with the sinister possibilities of twins. Madhouse embraces the concept with unabashed enthusiasm. The result is a poorly paced slasher begging for smarter characters.

Julia (Trish Everly) and her twin sister Mary (Allison Biggers) have led different lives after a sadistic relationship between the siblings during their formative years. Terrorized by the domineering Mary during their childhood, Julia hasn’t seen her sister in seven years. Julia now teaches at a school for deaf, mute children. Her happiness will soon be shattered when Mary returns to her life.

Assonitis produced dozens of b-movie Italian horror flicks but scripting and direction are not his strong points

Recently Mary became horribly scarred, locked away in a mental ward. Things never really add up in Madhouse’s plot, as Julia seems completely obvious to her sister’s condition when they meet for the first time in years. Father James (Dennis Robertson) is a kindly father figure to the women as their uncle. Bodies start turning up around Julia when her sister Mary escapes from the hospital, leading to a vaguely surprising ending for the twin sisters. A sinister dog that terrorized Julia as a child returns to wreak havoc on her life.

Many ideas are tossed out in the narrative but they never completely come together in this tepidly paced slasher from the early 1980s. Assonitis produced dozens of b-movie Italian horror flicks but scripting and direction are not his strong points. Madhouse wastes time on Julia’s character development when it feels completely out of place and unconvincing for a horror film. It doesn’t help that Trish Everly gives one of the hammiest lead performances. It’s a real clunker. As far as I can tell, Madhouse is her sole lead role. It’s no wonder as her acting is comically poor in this film. Even grading on a curve for low-budget slashers, her performance simply doesn’t work out.

I guess hardcore slasher fans will want to check Madhouse out one time to mark it off their viewing lists. But prepare for a poorly acted film with serious pacing problems and rather average gore scenes.

Video

This is a beautiful film transfer for such a mediocre, lazy slasher. It’s actually one of the best I’ve ever seen for an Eighties Italian production with superb grain reproduction and flawless looking elements. Reproduced below is the included note by Arrow Video on its origins.

“The original 35mm camera negative was scanned in 2K resolution at Eurolab, Rome. The film was graded and restored on the Nucoda grading system at R3store Studios, London. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches and other instances of film wear were repaired or removed through a combination of digital restoration tools and techniques.”

The 1080P video showcases the traditional Italian giallo cinematography typical of the era, heavy on fish-eye lenses and gauzy softness. Arrow Video keeps improving their color balance and saturation levels when they apply the color timing. Madhouse has perfectly calibrated flesh-tones with some life to them. They avoid going overboard with a magenta push.

Audio

Arrow Video adds a new 5.1 surround mix to accompany a stereo mix. The 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack competes well with the 2.0 stereo PCM option. The surround option is mildly discrete with a few moments of the score seeing some rear action.

Both have fairly similar fidelity and dynamics. Composer Riz Ortolani’s score is a weird, electronic sonic landscape that only could have been made in the 1980s. Sound quality is fine by the standards of most Italian horror cinema.

Here is Arrow Video’s included statement on the audio:

“The original English language 4-track stereo mix was transferred from the original Dolby mag reels and has been newly remastered to 5.1 at L’Immagine Ritrovata, Bologna. There are instances throughout the film in which the audio synchorization will appear slightly loose against the picture, due to the fact that the soundtrack was recorded in post-production.”

Optional English subtitles play in a white font inside the 2.35:1 presentation at all times.

Extras

This Blu-ray plus DVD set includes a handful of new interviews and a commentary from what amounts to a group of male horror fans.

The set comes with a reversible sleeve featuring original art and newly commissioned artwork by Marc Schoenbach. First pressings come with a booklet featuring new writing on the film.

Audio Commentary with The Hysteria Continues – The Hysteria Continues podcasters deliver this average group commentary. They share personal reactions to the film and its developments as longtime horror/slasher fans, but their insights into the movie itself are largely casual.

Running the Madhouse (12:40 in HD) – A featurette interviewing actress Edith Ivey, the eccentric landlady in the movie. She offers her perspective on the film and how production occurred, lightly going over her own acting background.

Framing Fear (19:32 in HD) – Cinematographer Roberto D’Ettorre Piazzoli discusses working on the film and his relationship with director/producer Assonitis. A fairly enlightening interview with his thoughts on Italian cinema from the period. In Italian with English subs.

Ovidio Nasty (07:44 in HD) – Producer/director Assonitis reflects on his career and why Madhouse got made in this interview.

Alternate Opening Titles (03:01 in HD) – Opening credits using There Was A Little Girl title.

Madhouse Trailer (03:04 in HD)

The unaltered images below are taken directly from the Blu-ray. For an additional 10 Madhouse screenshots, early access to all screens (plus the 6,000+ already in our library), exclusive UHD reviews, and more, support us on Patreon.