Madman Marz isn’t Freddy or Jason or Michael Meyers or even Leatherface or maybe even Chucky, but dammit he exists. He exists!
Originally based on the upstate New York urban legend of Cropsey, the film’s premise and slasher were both changed at the last minute once the production team discovered that The Burning was filming at the very same.
It took eight months and hundreds of attempts to get an investor — plus a last-minute rewrite to make the movie more unique — but this non-union effort finally made it to the screen.
A group of senior counselors and campers — Gaylen Ross is the only one most people know, as she was in Dawn of the Dead, and plays Betsy under the stage name of Alexis Dubin — gather around a campfire to hear the head counselor Max — who the filmmakers wanted to cast as Vincent Price, which would have been bonkers — regale them with the tale of Madman Marz. He killed his family with an axe and then survived a lynching attempt before disappearing into these very woods.
Richie, one of the kids, throws a rock into Marz’s home and shouts his name, learning no lessons at all from this urban legend. Richie soon sees Marz in the trees — ironically, the cast would see a mysterious person in the woods while they filmed this movie — and before you can say Pamela Vorhees, they’re all getting killed one by one.
T.P. is set up to be the hero here or he at least gets to have hot tub spinning something with Betsy. Seriously, this whole scene is lunacy, as they roll around and have what seems to be the unsexiest sex I’ve ever seen. Betsy then becomes the heroine, but she ends up blasting one of the other counselor’s brains out with a double-barrelled shotgun and narrowly helping the kids escape on a school bus before getting hung up on a hook and setting Marz’s house on fire.
So yeah. The killer survives, the kids are traumatized and there’s an awesome theme song, sung by Tony Fish, the same guy who plays T.P. There’s also a scene where Max lectures about the right way to play the game of axe in the stump, which is kind of like the sword in the stone: “Losing, winning – what’s the difference? Play the game with a fair heart, and you’ll always be able to look yourself in the mirror. Play too hard to win, and you might not like what you become.”
This movie is packed with parts that will make you scream in terror, laugh in utter glee and sing along like some demented maniac. In short, it’s everything a slasher should be. It’s also a reminder that even a non-legendary slasher is still a better movie in 2019 than the finest studio releases.
This is a movie made for 2 AM at the drive-in, bombed out of your mind. You can watch it with and without commentary from Joe Bob Briggs on Shudder. Or you can go all in on the amazing Vinegar Syndrome re-release.
You can watch Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio’s Cropsey, their 2009 documentary about the New York City urban legend, as a free-stream courtesy of Gravitas Ventures You Tube and Tubi Tv.
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