‘Spend the night with a madman.’
I, Madman – aka Hardcover – is a 1989 American horror feature film directed by Hungarian-born Tibor Takács (Spiders 3D; Ice Spiders; Mosquito Man; The Gate and The Gate II: Trespassers) from a screenplay written by David Chaskin (The Curse; A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge). The movie stars Jenny Wright, Clayton Rohner and Randall William Cook.
Jenny Wright stars as Virginia, an aspiring actress who makes ends meet by working in a used bookstore. (I’m not sure how much money the typical used bookstore employee makes but I have to say that Virginia’s apartment is absolutely to die for.)
Virginia is also dating a police detective named Richard (Clayton Rohner), who is handsome and sweet and looks good in a suit. In fact, the only problem with Richard is that he thinks that Virginia spends too much time reading trashy horror novels. According to him, they give her nightmares and they cause her imagination to run wild!
Richard’s not going to be happy to discover that Virginia has a new favourite author. His name is Malcolm Brand and, despite the fact that Virginia says that he’s better than Stephen King, he’s a mysteriously obscure author. In fact, no one but Virginia seems to have ever heard of him. Virginia has just finished reading Brand’s first book, Much of Madness, More of Sin. Now, she simply has to find his second book, which was called I, Madman. (Now, Much of Madness, More of Sin is a brilliant title. I, Madman on the other hand is a little bland, as far as titles go.)
When Virginia finally tracks down a copy of the book, she discovers that it is all about this mad scientist who falls in love with an actress. Because the scientist is horribly disfigured, the actress rejects him. So, the scientist starts killing people and stealing pieces of their faces, all so he can patch together a new face for himself.
It’s while she’s reading the book the strange things start to happen in Virginia’s life. For instance, the people around her start dying. When she witnesses one of her neighbours being murdered, she swears that the murder was committed by a man who had no nose… just like in the book! Richard thinks that she’s letting her imagination run wild but Virginia soon comes to wonder if maybe she’s being stalked by the real Malcolm Brand…
I, Madman is an entertaining little horror film, one that sometimes comes across as being an extended episode of something such as Tales from the Crypt. From the minute the movie started with Virginia curled up on her couch in her underwear, reading a trashy novel with her oversized reading glasses on and a storm raging outside, it felt as if they had made a movie out of my life! And really, this is one of the reasons why I, Madman makes such a good impression.
As played by Jenny Wright, Virginia serves as a stand-in for every horror fan who has ever read a scary novel and immediately imagined themselves as either the protagonist or the victim. Both Jenny Wright and Clayton Rohner give likable and quirky performances in the lead role and they’re surrounded by capable of character actors.
The movie itself is a bit of an homage to the suspense classics of the past. It’s easy to compare Malcolm Brand’s novel to The Phantom of the Opera while a scene in which Virginia watches her neighbour play piano brings to mind Hitchcock’s Rear Window.
When Virginia imagines herself as a character in one of Brand’s stories, the film even manages to work in some stop-motion animation.
Lisa Marie Bowman, guest reviewer via Through the Shattered Lens
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“It’s clear that the director had a clear idea of what exactly it was that he wanted, and he certainly achieves some visual greatness as it’s a very well-shot movie, but it’s just not a perfect formula. The make-up effects and the sped up dolly shot in the hallway revealing Cook’s character with a large syringe are still effective to this day, so it’s a low budget movie with some problems but with some very memorable aspects.” The Digital Bits
“The movie may have an underwritten first third, a lot of unanswered questions and some ridiculous/unbelievable moments, but my interest never at any point started to wane (though there were some close calls.) I guess I’m giving the movie a recommendation, though a mild one.” The Unknown Movies
Cast and characters:
- Jenny Wright … Virginia – The Lawnmower Man; Near Dark
- Clayton Rohner … Richard – Human Centipede III
- Randall William Cook … Doctor Alan Kessler / Malcolm Brand
- Stephanie Hodge … Mona
- Michelle Jordan … Colette
- Vance Valencia … Sgt. Navarro
- Mary Baldwin … Librarian
- Raf Nazario [as Rafael Nazario]… Lyle, Hotel Clerk
- Bob Frank … Hotel Manager
- Bruce Wagner … Pianist
- Kevin Best … Black Actor
- Steven Memel … Lenny
- Vincent Lucchesi … Lt. Garber
- Murray Rubin … Sidney Zeit
- Tom Badal … Composite Artist
Los Angeles, California
Image credits: Wrong Side of the Art!