Madhouse (1981)

aka THERE WAS A LITTLE GIRL (title in film on DVD), aka AND WHEN SHE WAS BAD

Nastiness Rating:

Directed by: Ovidio G. Assonitis
Written by: Ovidio G. Assonitis/Stephen Blakely/Roberto Gandus/Peter Shepherd

(As always with the Nasties reviews: There are a LOT of spoilers here. Don’t read this unless you don’t care. I’ll say this to sum things up: Madhouse is actually a decent flick. If you’re into this sort of thing, check it out.)

Madhouse is somewhat of a low-rent Argento riff, complete with a gloved hand being about the only thing we see of the killer for a good part of the film.

Julia (Trish Everly) is a normal, everyday deaf-school teacher who just wants to forget that she ever had an evil twin sister named Mary (Allison Biggers). When they were kids, Mary would torture Julia, especially on their birthday.

Now, Mary is sick with some virus that has left her hideously deformed. (Mmmmm….skin eruptions!) She escapes from the asylum and is possibly starting to torture her sister again. Trying to help, but disbelieving, are the girls’ uncle, Father James (Dennis Robertson) and Julia’s boyfriend, Sam (Dennis Farina lookalike, Michael MacRae).

Julia has some interesting stuff going on in her life. First off, she lives in the biggest, creepiest and most poorly lit apartment building in the world. Her landlady is a particular brand of weird. (“Mah note? Mah note? OH YAYES! I have been gettin’ bad vahbes!”) Her murder is particularly awesome. Drawn out and kinda silly…but I refuse to believe that Sam didn’t hear her screaming and banging on the door. Then again, he is kind of an idiot. At one point, he puts his important speech (which is about 50 pages long) on top of a taxi expecting the pages to NOT fly away.

Oh yeah, and Julia has a young student who is in love with her. He’s about 8 and gets dispatched pretty quickly. Italians aren’t afraid to kill kids…although he’s not killed on screen, strangely enough. (By the way, telling a group of deaf children that their friend is dead is pretty much the saddest thing ever.)

The rest of the kills are pretty run of the mill dog attacks. Julia’s friend is done in because she can’t tear her shirt…which was already torn. Creepy Asian Stereotype Handyman (who is apparently married to Spock’s sister) is killed by Mary’s dog in Julia’s apartment…but the cat lives. Huh?

At some point, Uncle Priest becomes a completely different person. He starts spouting nursery rhymes in the creepiest voice imaginable and…well…he’s the killer, of course. (We can tell early on that he’s homicidal because he’s a priest with a Menorah on his desk. Right?)

Madhouse isn’t a great movie, but it’s certainly not bad, either. It’s low budget and has music that sounds like a cross between Goblin and Seinfeld, but it’s entertaining and pretty fuckin’ creepy. (The opening title sequence alone is worth the admission for creep factor.)

Overall, one of the better Nasties, honestly. Check it out.

LOW POINT: That last kill. Julia hatchets Uncle Priest about 50 times and he turns into a pile of meat. Then, just to keep you guessing, someone who has been dead for about half an hour comes back to life for one final scare. Dumb.

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