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Film / Madman

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"Madman Marz... he's real!"

"It all started during a campfire at North Sea Cottages, a special retreat for gifted children...."
— Opening credits

Madman is a horror movie released in the year 1982, during the golden age of the slasher movies.

The movie opens in a summer camp, where a group of people are sitting around the campfire telling scary stories. After one of them has sung a song based on the subject, the camp counselor Max tells the local legend of "Madman" Marz, who killed his family brutally with an axe and was hanged for his deeds by the townsfolk. According to him, Marz lived through the experience and is still wandering in the surrounding forest.

While telling the story, Max says that his name must not be said out loud, because then he will come to get you. One of the kids laughs at the story, and starts mockingly yelling Marz's name. Unfortunately for them all, Marz hears the mocking, and starts picking them one by one....

The film was successful in the drive-ins and its popularity grew when it was released on VHS. It has its own small devoted fanbase and Paul Ehlers, who played the titular villain, is still making appearances at conventions.

There are rumors for possible continuation, but nothing conclusive has been said yet.

Not to be confused as a film adaptation of the comic Madman, though there were plans to do one.

"The trope lives/Beware the Madman Marz":

  • Action Girl: Betsy. When she sees Marz prowling the campgrounds after seeing Ellie's body, her first reaction is to take the double-barreled shotgun from the wall and hunt him.
  • Ambiguously Human: It’s difficult to tell whether Marz is just a man who survived being hanged or a genuine undead monster. His gray skin and apparent inability to speak seem to suggest the latter, though.
  • Antagonist Title: "Madman" is the nickname that Marz gained for his crimes, perpetuated by the campfire stories about him.
  • Behind the Black: While approaching Dave's corpse, Stacy is unable to see that he is missing his head. She realizes it once the audience is able to see it.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Calling out the name of a vicious killer when explicitly told not to? Bad. Being a real jerk about it and breaking said vicious killer's window in the process? Worse.
  • Creepy Basement: Marz lives in the basement of his old house, and keeps his past victims there.
  • Dangerous Windows: Marz grabs and drags Bill to his doom through an open car window.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: Some time is dedicated to the relationships of the characters, especially to the love between T.P. and Betsy.
  • Don't Go in the Woods: Most of the "killer prowling for his prey" scenes happen in the forest surrounding the camp.
  • Downer Ending: Marz kills Betsy, and it is hinted that he escaped his burning house.
  • Dramatic Irony: Richie got this ball rolling by disturbing Marz, but he survives the movie.
  • The End... Or Is It?: As Richie tells Max the story was true, the scene cuts to Marz walking through the woods with his axe.
  • Final Girl: Betsy, or not. However, Richie makes it in the end, making him the Final Guy.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Marz went from an abuser to a straight-up murderer to an infamous local legend.
  • Ghost Story: The movie opens with Max telling the main characters the story of Marz while sitting around a campfire.
  • Hollywood Darkness: Blue lighting equals darkness in this film.
  • Hope Spot:
    • While Ellie is chased by Marz in the camp, she hides inside a fridge. Marz then lets her believe that he missed her, and buries his axe on her chest when she tries to go outside.
    • Betsy arms herself with a shotgun in order to face Marz and gets off some shots during a running struggle. In the house, she gets startled by a noise she thought was Marz and accidentally fires a shot, but she doesn't have time to reload when Marz emerges for real.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: Even though the film is set in a summer camp, it's obviously fall, and Max even mentions that Thanksgiving is coming up soon.
  • Hysterical Woman: Ellie becomes hysterical (and irrational, as evident of her trying to hide in a fridge) after finding the remains of Stacy and sees her boyfriend Bill killed.
  • Idiot Houdini: Richie provokes Marz into killing everyone and is the only one who survives.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Bets is killed when Marz puts her body through a coat hanger.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Averted in the flashback where Marz gives his whole family the ax, including his son and daughter. Played straight with the children in the camp, who are left alone while Marz goes around killing people.
  • Informed Ability: The camp is for gifted children. None of the children show any signs of special ability or intelligence, and Richie's behavior is consistently pretty stupid.
  • Karma Houdini: Marz.
  • Leitmotif: When Marz is near, a distinctive short electronic tune will be heard.
  • Loves Me Not: Waiting for P.T. to return, Betsy pulls off petals from a paper flower, going through the "he loves me, he loves me not" routine. She's happy when she ends with "loves me" on the last petal.
  • Misplaced Retribution: Marz goes after everyone except the kid who actually provoked him.
  • Murder by Mistake: Betsy shoots the half-dead Ellie when she suddenly throws herself at a window.
  • My Car Hates Me: Stacy's pickup truck won't start when she tries to run away from Marz. Justified, because the vehicle is shown to have problems before she finds her life threatened.
  • Neck Snap: Searching for Richie in the woods, T.P. stops when he smells something funny. To himself, he manages to say "Smells like d—" before Marz drops a noose on his neck, drags him to a suitable tree, and tries to hang him. He manages to stop his strangulation, but Marz circumvents around it by grabbing his foot and pulling him down, which makes his neck snap.
  • Off with His Head!: Stacy's pickup truck won't start, so she tries to fix it. As she tries to fix the problem under the open hood, Marz jumps on it, decapitating her.
  • Pater Familicide: Marz was a dick who used to brutalize his family. He got worse when one night he just snapped, and killed them all with his axe while they were sleeping.
  • Red Right Hand: Marz has a grey, corpse-like skin. He's also missing the tip of his nose, which was bitten off in a bar fight.
  • Slashed Throat: The alcoholic Dippy finds out that his bottle of Jack Daniels is empty, so he gets up and goes to a door. When he turns on the light, he finds Marz there, who was hidden by the darkness. Marz then slices open Dippy's throat with his fingernails and drags the body away.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Richie after he finds Marz's lair.
  • Two-Person Pool Party: After publicly apologizing for his behavior at the campfire, T.P. has good time with Betsy in the hot tub, while Marz spies on them.
  • The Unintelligible: Marz doesn't exactly say anything, he just mumbles incomprehensibly.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Max for telling the others the story in the first place, and especially Richie for mockingly shouting Marz's name and throwing a rock through his window.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Played up in-universe with Max's Ghost Story. He notes that the bodies of Marz's family mysteriously disappeared and were never found by the authorities. It turns out victims end up in the Creepy Basement.
    • The kids in the bus vanish from the plot when Betsy leaves them to drive into town on their own. While we see no direct evidence of any harm coming to them, neither does Max encounter them on the way back to camp.