31 Days of Horror: Scream & Shout! Day 6

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I, Madman (1989)

What's It About?

Virginia (Jenny Wright) has become obsessed with the works of the author Malcolm Brand.  Brand's books are pulp horror, but she's working especially hard to track down the author's final book, I, Madman, about a demented doctor who cuts off all his facial features and grafts those of others onto it in hopes of pleasing the woman he loves.

Soon, people around Virginia start dying, their corpses removed of one facial feature or another and the mad doctor from the book begins showing up to tell Virginia that he'll have her heart one way or another.

Is it Any Good?

If your entry point into horror literature was Stephen King or Dean Koontz then you may not realize the golden era before it where any hack who was able to string together a sentence published some of the the most ridiculous horror fiction you could possibly imagine.  Grady Hendrix's Paperbacks From Hell covers the absurdly cheesy (and occasionally good) world of pulp horror.

A lot of great movies have been made from this era's fiction like The Beast Within, The Nest, The Manitou, and Bad Moon (its basis, Thor by Wayne Smith is one of the few actual good books of the era) among many others.  I, Madman isn't based on any of those books but it's half-pastiche and half-parody of the sub-genre as a whole.

This is a cheesy movie that exists in a heightened reality of bad dialogue and hokey set-ups.  The internal logic of the movie makes no sense but it's not supposed to because these books never did.  It's like a 90 minute episode of HBO's Tales From the Crypt.

As good as I, Madman is at its job of mocking and paying tribute to pulp horror, it's too much of a goof to really come across as terribly compelling.  The characters all have the complexity of a comedy sketch and so you don't really care about the drama or the danger of the movie, just how we get to the next set-piece.  Ultimately what makes I, Madman fun is also what makes it so utterly forgettable.

Watch, Toss, or Buy?

I, Madman is fun but it's as pulpy and disposable as the books it's riffing on.  Give it a watch.