I found Madhouse streaming on FEARNet, so we should probably establish that my expectations for movies that stream free over the internet are about as high as my expectations for the average YouTube video of a teenager singing into her hairbrush along with Mariah Carey. As long as no one actually utters the words “Run! Save yourself!” you’re pretty much golden.
This one looked like it might be kind of entertaining, though. Joshua Leonard (also known as The Least Annoying Blair Witch Kid, Not That That’s Saying Much) plays Clark Stevens, newly arrived at Cunningham Hall Mental Health Facility to do an internship. He quickly finds out that the staff are as strange as the residents, and in some cases hard to tell apart from them. The head nurse (Dendrie Taylor) is a taser-wielding Nurse Ratched type; the security guard (Christian Leffler) is a violent whackjob; the head doctor (Lance Henriksen, who has been in so many movies I think he must have cloned himself at some point) is clearly keeping Dire Secrets that probably involve Nazi medical experiments; and the Cute Social Worker (Jordan Ladd, otherwise known as Cheryl Ladd’s Daughter My God Where Does the Time Go) is on antipsychotics because she’s schizophrenic but just a little, okay?
Not long after Clark gets there, the head nurse is killed via a sort of do-it-yourself electroshock treatment that causes her to chew off her own tongue. In the process of questioning the patients on the disturbed ward, Clark discovers a prisoner in an ostensibly empty cell who has a lot of cryptic Hannibal Lecter-like pronouncements to make. Oh, and Clark starts seeing a kid who may or may not be a ghost. The more he investigates, the weirder things get (and the higher the body count goes), until he finds himself seriously considering the possibility that the hospital may be haunted.
The introductory scene is one of those strange OMGGHOSTS montages with all sorts of fast cuts, fast motion, and stark lighting. I love it, I’m not going to lie, but I have no idea what it had to do with the rest of the film.
Madhouse is a fun movie; at 90 minutes there isn’t really a chance for the pace to drag, and it doesn’t. It’s direct-to-video for a reason, make no mistake. I can’t even tell you the movies it’s derivative of without giving away the plot twist, but there are so many of them that you could make a drinking game out of spotting them. (There’s one character billed as “The Tranny” who I think is more of a drag queen, but all I could think of whenever he was on the screen was “He’s not a transsexual. He thinks he is. He tries to be.” Well, that and “Dude, he’s in lockdown in the basement of a mental hospital, where the hell is he getting all that makeup and the eyebrow tweezers?”) The production values occasionally make it look made-for-TV. The very end doesn’t actually make any sense. But the acting is good and it’s entertaining, so my conscience would be clear recommending it for a rainy afternoon when you can’t face playing Silent Hill one more time.
Ghost Kid is pissed because he has to spend eternity in the suit he wore to his cousin’s wedding. In 1842.
So what’s the verdict? Three stars. I don’t mind if movies are hugely derivative, usually, as long as they’re entertaining while they do it, and this one is. If the only Silence of the Lambs you want to watch is the one with Anthony Hopkins in it, though, you’d probably better do that instead.