‘Madhouse’ is the kind of direct-to-video movie that, when you look back on it, actually puts to shame many ventures that manage to reach the theatres! I admonish you from reading my above statement as a thumbs-up for ‘Madhouse’. The movie doesn’t deserve a theatrical release…but for its running time of 90 minutes, it kept me more interested than some of the stuff that I’ve endured on the big screen!The formula is pretty simple- take a less known but familiar generic actor, in this case ‘The Blair Witch Project’s Joshua Leonard; take an even lesser known actress that’ll readily perform the obligatory sex-scene, the nubile Jordan Ladd from ‘Cabin Fever’; put in some gore, skin and cheap effects; and most importantly a seasoning of some star-value(readalso-rans or actors who’re way past their heydays), the gifted but unsuccessful Natasha Lyonne and Lance ‘I used to be popular’ Henriksen! Add these ingredients together and your direct-to-video custom made film is ready! But William Butler somehow manages to make all of these clichés strangely fulfilling as long as they last. For the heck of it then, we find ourselves getting involved in the weird occurrences at a mental institution and the desperate attempts of a new intern Clark(Joshua Leonard) to uncover the truth. The institution has an underground level called the madhouse, which accommodates the most deranged of patients. The upper levels have their share of deaths, a little boy running around after-hours, a creaking sound from the walls and a Dr. Franks(Lance Henriksen) who- when he is not establishing his superiority -is reading books on the supernatural! Clark believes that the institution is haunted and the secrets lie with a patient in the madhouse who likes to talk in cryptic clues.
It is amazing how script-writers are able to concoct a situation where two characters find an opportunity to get it on even in a place choc-a-block with madmen and ghosts! So when Clark is not busy unearthing secrets, he finds time to make out with a senior intern Sara(Jordan Ladd). As corny as the story sounds(and make no mistake, it is!) the proceedings are largely enjoyable. Joshua Leonard is not a bad actor; in fact he adds a dreary air to his character which actually makes him interesting. The other characters are not as interesting enough- be it Dr. Franks, Alice(Natasha Lyonne) or the irritating caricature Dr. Morton(Leslie Jordan). Dr. Morton satisfies the mandatory idiot essential to a movie of this kind. He gets hungry after everyone’s slept and just has to go to the spooky kitchen with big knives all alone!‘Madhouse’ fulfills every truism of a bad movie- poor production values, poor acting and a poor script. Even the twist at the climax isn’t all that stirring, not to mention that a scene early in the movie almost gives it away. Despite all of these shortcomings though, it is a gratifying ride for its duration. Don’t try to think too much about it and it won’t disappoint. And no, it’s not one of those movies that are so bad that they are actually good!
Reviewed on the 12th, June 2005