There is probably nothing scarier than staring madness in the face as there is no possible way to reason with it. Such is the case here for Julia Sullivan as played by Trish Everly as she faces it on two fronts, that which is embodied by her sister who is both scarred and clearly psychopathic and herself as she slowly drives herself crazy over worry of her sister escaping the mental institution where she is being kept.
Most will notice that there are no noticeable stars appearing in this film and that it was probably not made with the largest of budgets in mind but with that being said, director Ovidio G. Assonitis who also had a hand in writing this movie did a great job with what he had and those who starred within made the best of the material. Everly who would take the lead in the film would do a great job as the distraught teacher of the deaf, a woman whose life is going just fine until she decides to visit her mentally unwell sister just days before her birthday. Memories from the past come rushing back and feelings she thought long gone return and from that moment on, her condition deteriorates as she believes her sister is going to come for her, that the dog her sister commands is going to terrorize her and despite what those around her think, she is not wrong. There is some palpable atmosphere in the film as it progresses, Julia’s birthday getting ever-closer. The tension starts to ramp up as well as the bodies start to fall and while it seems like a certain person is responsible, Assonitis throws in a bit of a surprise to give viewers a little extra to chew on.
Making this the horror movie that it is would be some fairly gory scenes as each of the supporting characters would get killed off in various manners. Some would fall prey to a dog including a child whose death was mercifully kept off-screen and yet there would be others that would show every little detail up close including the death of the aforementioned dog who would take a drill to the head while attacking Julia’s boyfriend. If whatever monies had been saved by casting relative unknowns in the film, they were put to good use as the practical effects not only looked quite good but were extremely effective as well. Coupled with the performances which also happened to be on point for most of the picture, it would all make for a very gripping experience.
As far as slashers go, Madhouse released in 1981 would set itself apart from the pack by doing things a little differently and as far as slashers go, different is good. It would not be the scariest or the bloodiest though there would be quite a bit of it and it was a film that would entertain and one worth catching should a person be given the chance to do so.
3.5 out of 5