Madhouse (1981)

Can we all admit that Ovidio Assonitis is a bona fide maniac? I’ve tried to explain The Visitor to people and always fail to capture the sheer lunacy and notion that it’s a film at the very same time about everything and nothing at the very same time. Nor can I divine why Franco Nero lives on the moon with bald dancing children determined to stop Satan from helping Atlanta to win a basketball championship.

You may wonder — what if Assonitis made a slasher? Good news. He did. And it’s also as deranged as you’d have hoped.

Julia teaches deaf children when she’s not having flashbacks to her horrific childhood, including her mistreatment at the hands of her twin sister Mary. Her uncle James, a priest, urges her to visit her sister and deal with her past.

Mary is suffering from a degenerative skin disease and their reunion does not go well to say the very least. The evil twin promises to make her sister suffer as she has suffered and begins using her evil dog to kill nearly all of Julia’s friends and neighbors.

At some point, Assonitis decides to just throw reality to the wind and we’re given a scene where the priest asks a lady to help him move some packages into Julia’s basement. One of them is a dead body and when she panics, he chases down the neighbor and murders her. The next day, the now insane priest arranges a surprise party for our heroine, complete with the dead bodies of everyone he has taken out. Mary confronts her sister, but is also murdered by the Catholic maniac priest.

Julia’s boyfriend comes back just in time, killing the evil dog with a power drill and rescuing his woman, who gets her revenge by repeatedly striking Father James with a hatchet before sitting down next to the dead body of her sister.

This is a theme in his catalog, but Assonitis had to fire and take over for the original director ten days into the production. There are touches of high art here amidst the slasher gore and the setup of the evil sister is quite well done, only to be thrown away at the end.

Also known as There Was a Little Girl and And When She Was Bad, this movie was re-released by Arrow a few years back. You can grab a copy from Diabolik DVD or watch it with on Amazon Prime.

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