3 days ago
Most genre fans refer to I, Madman as a sleeper hit, a jewel traced in obscurity. While I'll resist the temptation to make a dullard joke by subverting the term "sleeper," I will suggest that this film might be obscure for a reason. It's just an opinion, I know, but I chuckle when I read a review that wonders why I, Madman fell through the cracks. Could it be because the half-baked plot does a cruddy job of explaining itself? Could it be because the heroine is dumber than a satchel of penny loafers (I don't know; it's the first thing that came to mind)? Could it be because director Tibor Takacs expended all of his creative energy on refining the script for The Gate II: The Trespassers? Well, that last one is doubtful.
I don't enjoy lambasting a cult favorite. No one will tell you that I, Madman is a flawless masterpiece, but like I said earlier, it has its fair share of suitors. The set-up is inviting. Virginia is an unassuming bookstore clerk who can't seem to put down a trashy tome named "Much of Madness, More of Sin." Rapt by the macabre prose of author Malcolm Brand, she hunts down his only other published work, "I, Madman." At first, Virginia is intrigued, but each page becomes more and more disturbing. She begins to see the story's villain around town. In a scene reminiscent of Rear Window, she actually sees the black-clad caitiff butchering a pianist across the street. We know that reality is stranger than fiction, but has Virginia's fiction bled into reality?
Sounds cool, right? For what it's worth, I dug the ethereal exposition, despite the fact that nothing happens to Virginia until the 40-minute mark. The special effects are groovy, the acting is adequate and the flashbacks are authentic (love the costume design). Regrettably, I, Madman falls apart when it's forced to delineate a payoff. This is where I ask questions that the film didn't bother answering. How does Dr. Kessler jump out of the novels? We are led to believe that Virginia controls what happens, so why didn't she conjure up Jackal Boy sooner? And how the fuck did she conjure up Jackal Boy? If "I, Madman" is a work of non-fiction, then how is Virginia able to change the ending?
Oh, spoiler alert. Speaking of Virginia, why is she written as an ill-advised dunce? It takes her a millennium to piece the simplest clues together. Case in point, the library flub. Jesus Christ. And we're supposed to be in her corner? She could have easily...EASILY prevented the death of a co-worker, but she convinces the cops to stake out a different location. Luckily, Takacs tosses a stop-motion beastie into the climax to salvage an otherwise wretched third act. He would go on to helm a sprinkling of creature features for the Syfy Channel. I hate to say it, Tibor, but you peaked with The Gate. Seriously, that movie owns my soul.
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 7:03 PM