Monday, March 25, 2013

SILENT MADNESS (1984), HORROR HOUSE (1969)



PHENOMENALITY: *uncanny*
MYTHICITY: *good*
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *drama*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *sociological, psychological*


Here we have two slasher-flicks, though the second one predates the slasher-craze by ten years.

SILENT MADNESS deals with a homicial maniac, one Howard Johns, released from an asylum because of a computer error. One of the asylum-doctors, Joan Gilmore (Belinda J. Montgomery), tries to track down the psycho by researching the circumstances of his case. Also pursuing Johns are two hamhanded handlers from the asylum, more motivated with covering up the mistake than with preserving lives.

MADNESS is slowly paced but has an assortment of reasonably engaging psycho-scenes, though director Simon Nuchtern avoids explicit gore.  Montgomery delivers a solid performance as the feisty doctor, who ends up fighting both Johns and the asylum-handlers, and there's a moderately interesting "surprise ending" that reveals the truth about the crimes for which Johns was committed.  However, Solly Marx-- principally a stuntman before essaying the role of Johns-- is pretty much just a stiff, lacking either charisma or pathos.  In addition, every time a character speaks his name, one is likely to think of "Howard Johnson's," the famous bed-and-breakfast.

Still, though MADNESS is nothing special, it's far more watchable than HORROR HOUSE.  HOUSE is one of the most boring horror-films I've ever seen, which is strange since writer-director Michael Armstrong made the considerably better-- if far from classic-- MARK OF THE DEVIL one year later.



I've not seen the DVD commentary in which Armstrong blames the mangling of HOUSE on producer interference, on reshoots and re-edits beyond his control.  It's quite possible that he is blameless.  Nevertheless, for whatever reason, the film plods along showing sequence after sequence of party-going teenagers, with barely the suggestion of a plotline. When the teens (including bankable American star Frankie Avalon) check out an old deserted house on a lark, one of the partygoers is killed. The police investigate, and find no killer.  Eventually some of the youngsters decide to find the killer on their own.

This is such a phlegmatic film that it wasn't even able to get any benefit from Avalon, who's so toned-down that he hardly seems like himself.  The killer's revelation has no particular impact, which again may be the result of tampering-- but it also suggests that the original story wasn't all that solid to begin with.

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