Madhouse (1981)

madhouse poster 1981 movie
6.5 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 7/10

Good location, story wasn't as cliche as it looks

Pretty typical horror when boiled down

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Madhouse

Studio:  Overseas FilmGroup

Genre(s):  Horror

Release Date(s):  March 4, 1981 (Italy)/August 19, 1983 (US)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

madhouse mary allison biggers

Sister Mary is coming for you!

Julia Sullivan (Trish Everly) has always been afraid of her twin sister Mary Sullivan (Allison Biggers).  Mary was institutionalized and unbalanced, and Julia has tried to forget her past.  When her uncle Father James (Dennis Robertson) contacts Julia that Mary is ill, Julia realizes the horror is returning in the form of their shared birthday.  When Mary escapes the asylum, Julia fears that Mary is coming after her, and when her friends begin to disappear, Julia realizes her worst fears could be true.

Written and directed by Ovidio G. Assonitis (with additional scripting by Stephen Blakeley, Peter Sheperd, and Roberto Gandus), Madhouse is an Italian-American horror movie.  Sometimes called There Was a Little Girl or And When She Was Bad (from the Henry Wadsworth poem “There Was a Little Girl” used in the film), the movie was often criticized for its violence and banned in some areas (including making the “video nasty” list in the UK).

madhouse dog killed rotweiller micahel macrea

I’m going to drill the hell out of this puppet dog head

I remember the VHS box to Madhouse, but I never saw it.  One of the joys of so many streaming options is that movies like Madhouse pop-up on things and movies that I never thought I would see are now available…for better or worse.  Madhouse is a fun slasher with a twist, but it is pretty average in the long haul.  Due to aspects of the story, a ******spoiler alert****** exists for the rest of the review.

Madhouse blends some genre tropes.  It has an evil twin, a devil dog, and a twist ending.  The pieces individually are rather generic, but at least they are assembled into something new and original.  It actually comes out a bit garbled (I still really don’t get the uncle-priest motivation…except that he’s nuts), but it at least added some texture and extra scares to what could have been a bland movie.

The cast is American (largely) despite begin a joint Italian-American venture.  Trish Everly isn’t bad as the lead and weirdly enough isn’t cast as her own twin sister (played by Allison Biggers) which eliminated potential twin impersonation plot points (the Mary character has a disfiguring disease).  Michael Macrae feels like a bit of a creeper as Trish’s boyfriend Sam, but I do like the unbalanced Dennis Robertson who seemed to have fun with his role as the psychotic priest.

madhouse trish everly dennis robertson

No one loves you like your uncle

The movie is set in Savannah which also provides a different look and feel than benefits the movie some (like the scene where Sasha meets his unfortunate demise).  The movie also employs Rottweilers which always is tricky, but they do appear threatening.  It also has decent “slashing” and gets pretty bloody and violent.

Madhouse was a bit different than I expected which is always good for a horror movie that looks like it is a hodgepodge of other films.  It is violent and gory and just what you’d hope for from a combination of Italian horror and ’80s slasher.  Fans of both genres should check it out.  It might not “wow” you, but it is a fun outing.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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