Blu-ray Movie Review – Madhouse (1981)

Directed by Ovidio G. Assonitis (aka Oliver Hellman)
Courtesy of Arrow Video & MVD Distribution
Original Year of Release: 1981
Blu-ray Release Date: June 13, 2017

MADHOUSE is one of those films I’ve heard about for years, but never got the chance to watch until now. And I’m glad I finally got to see it. To quote one of the video store employees I used to talk to about horror movies way back in the day, the movie “takes sibling rivalry to the extreme,” and he’s not kidding. If I had a brother or sister that treated me like Mary does Julia, I’d probably have wound up in a mental institution! MADHOUSE is a gut-wrenching trek into insanity, and although it’s not perfect, it’s still a lot of fun.

If you are not familiar with MADHOUSE, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Arrow Video & MVD Distribution:

Helmed by legendary producer/director Ovidio Assonitis, the man behind such cult favourites as The Visitor and Piranha II: The Spawning, Madhouse is a crimson-soaked tale of sibling rivalry taken to a terrifying and bloody extreme.

Julia has spent her entire adult life trying to forget the torment she suffered at the hands of her twisted twin Mary… but Mary hasn’t forgotten. Escaping hospital, where she s recently been admitted with a horrific, disfiguring illness, Julia s sadistic sister vows to exact a particularly cruel revenge on her sibling this year promising a birthday surprise that she’ll never forget.

An Italian production shot entirely in Savannah, Georgia, Madhouse (aka And When She Was Bad and There Was a Little Girl) fuses slasher elements with the over-the-top excess of 80s Italian terror resulting in a cinematic bloodbath so gut-wrenching that the British authorities saw fit to outlaw it as a video nasty.

Director Ovidio Assonitis shot this film under the name Oliver Hellman, but I’ve never discovered the reason as to why. Of similar interest is the fact this film is an Italian work, however it was filmed entirely in the southeastern United States. No explanation was given for this either, however. These aspects don’t change my opinion of the movie…they are just interesting facts to plug into your brain.

MADHOUSE looks great from a cinematic standpoint. The camerawork is simply used to tell the story, and does not have any sort of artistic appeal, which is fine. The production value appears fairly decent, which makes the overall look of the film to be that of a higher budget work.

The acting is pretty good as well, although I don’t think anybody will win any awards for their performances. Trish Everly does a fine job as Julia, while Allison Biggers is convincing as her psycho-sister, Mary. Dennis Robertson is probably the best of the cast as he portrays the messed up Father James.

The special effects in MADHOUSE are very good for the time period, and the film boasts some nice carnage in the gore department. I particularly like the scene where the Rottweiler is killed with the drill; this effect is well done and very convincing.

The plot is the main problem with this movie. It is simply too slow paced for the film to ever achieve a true sense of suspense. Clocking in at around 92 minutes, the film would have probably been even more potent it they had shaved at least 10-15 minutes off it. Still, if you can look past the dragging parts, the movie is quite entertaining.

MADHOUSE is definitely worthy of watching, and I recommend giving it a shot. It’s a hybrid film, combining a semi-clever mystery (I caught on pretty quick) with a taut slasher flick. Be ready for some interesting scenes, but also be ready to sit through a bit of lag as well.

MADHOUSE is available now.

Special Features

• Brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition presentations
• Original Stereo Audio (Uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Brand new audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues
• Brand new interviews with cast and crew
• Alternate Opening Titles
• Theatrical Trailer, newly transferred in HD
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Marc Schoenbach
• FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Booklet featuring new writing on the film


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