Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Film Review: Madhouse (2004)

Madhouse (Review)
United States/2004
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: Yes

"...offers some decent horror elements."

Psychiatric intern Clark Stevens (Joshua Leonard) arrives at Cunningham Hall Mental Facility to fulfill his medical school graduation requirements, but finds himself fighting his own sanity...

Madhouse is a procedural psychological horror film. The story follows Clark Stevens as he meets the patients and staff, and completes his tour. He also meets a potential love interest. When a violent murder occurs, Clark begins to investigate all of the possibilities. Was it an inmate? Was it the staff? Or is the hospital really haunted? As more violence occurs, and as his visions become more vivid, Clark begins to question everything, including himself. This tightly-packaged, moderately-paced, and clichéd-riddled horror film leads to a messy and predictable ending -- the predictable part I can forgive, but I wonder how something so simple and cliché can become so convoluted.

So, as you can see, Madhouse is nothing new -- the plot plays out and ends like every other film in the genre. But, it's not a terrible thing. The setting, albeit familiar, is spooky and effective. The patients are also very creepy -- the mental illness is ridiculously over-the-top, but it managed to be eerie, regardless. This is a film that relies more on suspense and visuals for horror than anything else. The suspense can come off as weak and fabricated, but the imagery is surprisingly chilling and consistent. There's also some wicked gore. So, despite being so generic and procedural, at the very least, Madhouse offers some decent horror elements. The ending even delves into the slasher genre, as many horror films tend to do when they're out of options. In fact, the final act really felt out of place, illogical, and irrational -- I didn't really enjoy it.

The acting is also decent. Occasionally coming off as wooden and boring, Joshua Leonard delivers a serviceable performance. The supporting cast, particularly those that play the mental patients, are great. In general, the acting was good for a 2004 direct-to-DVD horror film. The cinematography and music are by-the-books; nothing really special or noteworthy, simply competent. William Butler directs and assists in the writing, and I think he does well in creating horror through imagery; but, there is a severe lack of ambition and originality in the story.

Overall, Madhouse is a good horror film. It has some very eerie visuals, some decent suspense, an ominous atmosphere, and surprisingly decent acting. But, the plot is too familiar -- too cliché and too generic -- to really recommend hunting this film down. If you have Netflix Instant, then it may be worth viewing on a night in, especially for fans of the genre or setting. Maybe if I saw this film in 2004 I'd be surprised by the climax, but, by now, this twist is burned out.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and gore, some partial nudity and sex.

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