I love this strange little horror film hugely. The use of color in I, Madman to duplicate the look of old mystery pulp magazines (& in one great scene, costumes that look like 1950s floor wax ads in slick magazines) was a visual marvel.
The old-fashioned stop-motion puppetry of the half-jackal child was nostalgic & appealing. Even such small props as the chipped dustwrappers on the two "non fiction" books of occult horror were so convincingly pulp-era relics.
The little "clues" as to how pulps could come alive were never overly highlighted (a book on alchemy that fell out of the trunk never had a camera shot fall on it). The viewer is merely tossed, like the protagonist, into a world that is.
The set-up of the story is a young woman who is a fan of vintage horror novels (I could sure relate to her) has found an author of only two old books which she thinks makes Stephen King novels read like a tea party. The first book she finds is about the half-jackal created by a mad scientist.
She loved that book & wanted to find his other rare novel. Eventually she finds his only other book, "I, Madman," about a man too ugly to succeed at love, so he cuts off his own face then goes on a gorey quest to find new facial features from a series of slaughtered victims. The girl reading this book becomes entirely identified with the object of the Madman's love inside the story, & in the real world his character has manifested in.
How much of it is only an illusion of the supernatural orchestrated by a living madman, & how much of it really emanates from the two books, is not resolved until the end, which I found breathtaking.
It's a cheap little film, with some of the actors not so much up to their task. Jenny Wright (who is also in Near Dark) is terrific in the central role, & the madman apparently imitating Orson Welles at times is terrrific (Randall William Cook; he's an FX master rather than actor, but he turns in a great performance, & designed his own psycho-monster make-up). But the supporting cast all seemed like amateurs just out of some community college acting class.
For all its no-budget & uneven casting, it is much more than any average B movies. It's not something to be enjoyed like the "best" of the usual slaughter-films as "so bad it's good." Rather, it is a genuine gem of an artfully conceived horror film, showing great affection for the genre, & ultimately a socko tale of a psycho.
The film struck me as so good that I just had to check into other films directed by Tibor Takacs. He usually gets thumbs-down one-star reviews, but I had to see them to believe he's usually the talentless hack critics have made him out to be. There'd have to be something of the genius of I, Madman in the corners of his later films, I was certain.
Well, Takacs is not a director who got better & better. There are things to like in such goofy films as Killer Rats (2003) & Mosquito Man (2004), but so far the hint of genius suggested by his 1988 film I, Madman has not exactly been honed to greatness in the intervening years.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl