Fernando Di Leo’s Madness
Director - Fernando Di Leo
Cast - Joe Dallesandro, Lorraine DeSalle
Country of Origin - Italy
Discs - 1
MSRP - 19.98
Distributor - Raro Video
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
The Film (3.5/5)
In the early 60's the Swedish master Ingmar Bergman made a trilogy of Chamber Dramas that came to be known as his Silence of God trilogy. Those 3 films Through A Glass Darkly, Winter Light, and the Silence dealt with a small cast of characters each in a restricted location dealing with a difficult situation, and contemplating life without an supernatural creator. Fernando DiLeo's (Caliber 9, To Be Twenty) Madness (aka Vacation Massacre) also feels like a chamber drama, a chamber horror if you will.
It is true that horror films over the decades, have effectively used limited cast and locations to effectively portray such elements as claustrophobic terror, but what is interesting about Madness is how is much is plays out more like a theatrical drama than a narrative horror film. Once the plot effectively gets going, we are left with a tiny primary cast, whose motivations are constantly changing, with survival (and greed) being the only constant motivator.
The film stars Warhol superstar Joe Dallesandro as Joe Brezzi, a man who has just escaped from prison, and committed an act of double murder in the process. Joe has one thing on the mind, to retreat to a secluded cottage where 5 years earlier he stashed a handsome sum of money, and retrieve it. Unfortunately, for Joe the cottage is occupied by Sergio, his wife Liliana, and her sister Paola.
Joe decides to wait patiently for the right moment, and the afternoon following his arrival he sees his opportunity, when Sergio and his life leave Paola alone in the cabin. Joe rushes in, ties her up, and that's when things begin to get weird. He doesn't just take his money and leave, he ends up holding the trio hostage when Liliana and Sergio return, and having his way with both women. The film escalates into a tense and claustrophobic scenario, as Paola tries to find a way out of the situation, and claim the money for herself. Needless to say like most films in the post Last House rape revenge genre, this doesn't end well, but it does end violently.
The performances in the film are solid, with the exception being Dallesandro himself. It's probably good that his dialogue is sparse, because he doesn't have much acting prowess, and he never seems menacing in a way that someone like David Hess (Last House on the Left, Hitch-Hike) does. The standout performance belongs to Lorraine De Salle (Cannibal Ferox), who has most of the powerful character moments in the film. Her performance truly helps keep the plot moving, with the various twist and turns it, and her character are forced to take.
Overall, if you've been a long time horror fan you've seen this sort of thing before. However, due to the limited sets, and cast Madness makes for quite an interesting viewing experience.
Fernando Di Leo's Madness comes to DVD via Raro Video with a solid anamorphic widescreen transfer. The transfer has a nice grain structure, with excellent colors, and accurate flesh tones. There is a little print damage to be found, and minor softness, but this is rare, and does not really detract from the overall quality of the transfer.
Raro has offered up 2 audio options, English and Italian mono tracks with Optional English subtitles. As I'd rather watch a film as close to it's native language as possible, I went with the Italian which sounded fine. The dialogue came through crisp and clear, as did the music, and what sound effects there were.
Raro does not offer much in the way of extras for their release of Fernando DiLeo's Madness. On the disc itself is a director bio with filmography, and then we are treated to liner notes by Eric Cotenas who goes into greater detail about DiLeo, his relationship with the primary creative crew, and the cast of the film.
Madness is an interesting experiment in chamber horror. The film definitely fits into the post-Last House on the Left rape-revenge mold, unfortunately, it is a good film let down by a blasé villain performance. Other than that it is definitely an interesting watch for fans of the genre. Raro Video has done an excellent job restoring the film for it's Region 1 DVD release, and although the extras are slim, Fernando Di Leo's Madness definitely comes Recommended for fans of obscure Italian horror films.