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Horror Movie A Day: Quint on I, MADMAN (1989)
I’ll have your heart... one way or the other!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day. [The regular A Movie A Day list has been frozen in order for me to do an all-horror line-up for October. I’ve pulled many horror titles from my regular “to see” stack and have ordered many more horror and thriller titles to make sure we have some good stuff. Like the regular AMAD column all the movies I’m covering are films I have never seen, but unlike the regular AMAD column I will not connect each film to the one before it. Instead I will pull a title at random every day and watch whatever the movie Gods determine for me.] Wow, who would have thought that Randy Cook was so fucking scary? If you’ve watched the behind the scenes docs on the LORD OF THE RINGS DVDs you’ve probably seen Randy. He’s a very talented special effects man who moved into second unit directing for Peter Jackson on KING KONG and is moving toward that goal still to this day. I met Randy when I was down in New Zealand during the filming of LOTR and at that time I was groveling at his feet for his amazing stop-motion work on one of my favorite ‘80s flicks: THE GATE. He did all those evil little demon fuckers. The reason I’m dropping his name pretty hardcore is that today’s film deals very much with metafiction… a woman reads a couple of books that start interacting with her life and reality isn’t as it should be. To make the meta even more fucked up is one of the biggest AMAD fans out there is one Randall William Cook, who sends constant emails and Facebook messages to me about the films I’m covering. So, how much does that add to the weirdness of this movie? I’m watching a film with a scary-ass heavily-made-up Randy Cook who comes out of a book torturing the reader in real life so I can write about it for an audience that includes Randy Cook! I just hope I don’t finish writing this up, take a gander left and see him standing in my hallway.

So, yeah. This is a pretty nifty little flick, atypical of its type. It is not content to be a straight up ‘80s horror movie, but insists on a light tone without falling into a straight up horror comedy. There’s also a complicated script based around the idea of fiction imposing itself into our reality. The opening of the movie has us in an old school apartment that looks like the hotel Barton Fink stayed in, where a strange sound is heard coming from the room of one of the weirder tenants. We get a glimpse of the guy as he leaves… pale, creepy red-yellow eyes… he snarles at the desk guy, who is later ordered to go check out the sound coming from the room. Of course the room is lit with very theatrical horror lighting that if any of us ever saw upon entering a strange room we’d take as a sign to get the fuck right out of there. He discovers what they refer to later in the film as the Jackal Boy, an evil creation of the mad Dr. Kessler, which looks a helluva lot like a bigger version of Cook’s GATE demon, executed in the same stop-motion style. A blonde next door is attacked by this thing and we’re suddenly pulled into a different reality as our lead, Virginia (Jenny Wright of NEAR DARK fame) slams her book shut. She’s been reading this story and it is getting to her, maybe even making her hallucinate.

Oh, and did I mention Jenny Wright starts off in a silk blouse and see-through lace panties? That got some of the guys’ attention, I’m sure. Turns out Ms. Wright works at a book store and they got a ton of rare books from an Estate Sale once belonging to an obscure author named Malcolm Brand. Brand wrote two novels and she can’t find the second one called I, MADMAN. One night she comes home to find it resting at the foot of her door. Weird coincidences were happening while reading the first book, but the effects of the second book are instantaneous and unmistakable. The main villain of the book is the same dude from the first book, who this time falls in love with a blonde (who is played again by Wright as she reads and imagines the world). The girl shuns him for not being good looking enough to consider going out with… So, naturally, the crazy fucker cuts all of his main features off. There’s not so crazy part… his hair… but then he also takes his ears, mouth, nose and lips. This is the version that shows up in the real world, lower-face covered like The Shadow, and proceeds to stalk her friends, who all share similarities with the man’s victims in the book by the way, relieving them of different body parts so he can reassemble his face. With that bugfuck crazy story you can imagine how hard it is to convince the cops you know what’s going on and can even predict what’s going to happen next by reading a little faster. Even her cop boyfriend (‘80s staple Clayton Rohner of JUST ONE OF THE GUYS and APRIL FOOL’S DAY fame) doesn’t believe her wild claims despite her continuing to be the only witness at the crime scenes as she keeps trying her best to prevent them from happening.

There’s surprisingly little play with the idea that she might actually be the killer, which I was a little shocked by, but ultimately kind of relieved that the movie wasn’t trying to sneak in a half-assed twist. We find solid evidence on the scene that the killer is definitely a very tall man and that let me relax and just watch the story as it played itself out. What is more ambiguous is just how much cross-over we’re getting from book to reality. We come to find out that the author is presumed dead, but considered himself the lead character, going so far as to cut up his face, too. He even insisted his books were published as non-fiction. They definitively answer that question in the climax which sees the return of Randy Cook’s great stop-motion work. Randy Cook is surprisingly great in the lead, very expressive through the make-up and definitely a menacing figure. In fact when I saw his name in the opening credits I didn’t know who he played until the closing credits attributed Dr. Kessler/Malcolm Brand to him. I assumed he was a neighbor who plays the piano… we never really see his face, but he was fairly Randy Cook-shaped. Less phenomenal is Jenny Wright, but she’s not too horrible. I actually found her to be pretty easy to sympathize with and I was pulling for her to win out, so I guess she brought enough to make-up for some awkward line deliveries. Final Thoughts: This is an under-appreciated gem of the era. It’s not life-changing, but it’s fresh, fun and a cornerstone of that era’s genre effects work. The script by David Chaskin is smart, original and most importantly entertaining. I’d recommend one of two films as a double feature. The first and most obvious is the previous Randy Cook/Tibor Takacs collaboration THE GATE. The stop motion work alone makes it a good double feature… and trust me, that movie is scarier than you probably remember it being… The second feature I’ll talk about below.

Now I promised an add-on to each day of HMAD in this final run up to Halloween Friday night… I had a few ideas, but after watching this movie I couldn’t help but move some of my planned favorites aside and suggest one of John Carpenter’s most under-appreciated and misunderstood films.

IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS got a lot of shit when it came out in 1994, but I think time has been incredibly good to John Carpenter’s film. It’s a perfect double feature with this movie, sharing similar story points, but utilizing a radically different tone. In fact, if you want to have a three-fer night I’d start with I, MADMAN, move to IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS and cap it off with Carpenter’s scariest film, hand’s down, PRINCE OF DARKNESS. I think that’s why I love IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS so much… it shares a similar tone to PRINCE OF DARKNESS, which still gives me the nut-shriveling shivers to this day. On top of that, you have a genuinely off-putting premise that promises no escape and gives none. Neither film is Carpenter’s best, but both are scarier than his best work. I love HALLOWEEN and THE THING more than I possibly convince you of here, but there’s something to ITMOM and POD that really gets under my skin, something the other films don’t have. I don’t know if it’s the hopelessness or the building of tension, but both films make me think Carpenter captured pure evil on the screen. With IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS you have a fantastically unhinged Sam Neill performance as he investigates the disappearance of Sutter Cane, a horror novelist more popular than Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Clive Barker rolled into one. You end up with a descent into hell as reality becomes less and less tangible. And the cast is incredible. You get John Glover, Jurgen Prochnow, the great David Warner, Frances Bay (HAPPY GILMORE’s grandma) and a nice scene-chewing cameo by Charlton Heston. And the film also introduced the world to Hayden Christensen in the small role of a paperboy (who is wearing a creepy old-man mask if I remember the movie correctly). Tons of creatures, a dark tone that gets under your skin, a great cast and fantastic central performance by Sam Neill makes IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS my first recommendation this week as we count down to All Hallows Eve. If you haven’t seen it, grab it and give it a spin. If you have, but a long time ago, I urge you to give it another look.

Here are the titles in the drawing pool for the rest of October: Wednesday, October 1st – Friday, October 31st: H-MAD! Horror Movie A Day! Check out the list here! Now’s the the time to pull the next HMAD! Next up is:

Fair warning, I may have seen this one in my kiddie and/or teenage years. It’s definitely the kind of trash I loved growing up, or appears to be. And it’s got one Mr. George Clooney back when he had ‘80s hair! See you folks for that one! -Quint

Previous Movies: June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
August 26th: Somebody Up There Likes Me
August 27th: The Set-Up
August 28th: The Devil & Daniel Webster
August 29th: Cat People
August 30th: The Curse of the Cat People
August 31st: The 7th Victim
September 1st: The Ghost Ship
September 2nd: Isle of the Dead
September 3rd: Bedlam
September 4th: Black Sabbath
September 5th: Black Sunday
September 6th: Twitch of the Death Nerve
September 7th: Tragic Ceremony
September 8th: Lisa & The Devil
September 9th: Baron Blood
September 10th: A Shot In The Dark
September 11th: The Pink Panther
September 12th: The Return of the Pink Panther
September 13th: The Pink Panther Strikes Again
September 14th: Revenge of the Pink Panther
September 15th: Trail of the Pink Panther
September 16th: The Real Glory
September 17th: The Winning of Barbara Worth
September 18th: The Cowboy and the Lady
September 19th: Dakota
September 20th: Red River
September 21st: Terminal Station
September 22nd: The Search
September 23rd: Act of Violence
September 24th: Houdini
September 25th: Money From Home
September 26th: Papa’s Delicate Condition
September 27th: Dillinger
September 28th: Battle of the Bulge
September 29th: Daisy Kenyon
September 30th: Laura
October 1st: The Dunwich Horror
October 2nd: Experiment In Terror
October 3rd: The Devil’s Rain
October 4th: Race With The Devil
October 5th: Salo, Or The 120 Days of Sodom
October 6th: Bad Dreams
October 7th: The House Where Evil Dwells
October 8th: Memories of Murder
October 9th: The Hunger
October 10th: I Saw What You Did
October 11th: I Spit On Your Grave
October 12th: Naked You Die
October 13th: The Wraith
October 14th: Silent Night, Bloody Night
October 15th: I Bury The Living
October 16th: The Beast Must Die
October 17th: Hellgate
October 18th: He Knows You’re Alone
October 19th: The Thing From Another World
October 20th: The Fall of the House of Usher
October 21st: Audrey Rose
October 22nd: Who Slew Auntie Roo?
October 23rd: Wait Until Dark
October 24th: Dead & Buried
October 25th: A Bucket of Blood
October 26th: The Bloodstained Shadow

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