SLASHER MONTH: I, Madman (1989)

How is this movie forgotten? It boasts a director whose other movie is well-known — Tibor Takács also made The Gate — and it straddles the line between the fantastic, a slasher and giallo all at once without falling apart. It also has artistic pretensions, as it’s based on Julio Cortázar’s La Continuidad de Los Parques (The Continuity of the Parks), a short story that is at once three stories that all are aware of one another in a place where fiction meets meta-fiction.

Man, I love this movie. I want you to love it, too.

Virginia (Jenny Wright from Near Dark) has become obsessed with Malcolm Brand’s (Randall William Cook, a special effects man whose career stretches from Laserblast to Peter Jackson’s Tolkein films) book I, Madman. Within this story within the story, the deformed Dr. Kessler (also Cook) is attempting to win over actress Anna Templar by killing people and adding their faces to his own.

The more our heroine reads the book, the more she realizes that it is real and that Kessler has entered our world. Virginia is exactly the kind of lady who would be content to sit in the back of a musty used book store, reading her way through seedy pulp novels and gothic horror fiction and dreaming of being part of those worlds until she truly is.

Bruce Wagner, who plays the piano player, used to be married to Rebecca De Mornay. He wrote Maps to the Stars, the book that Cronenberg based his movie on, as well as the graphic novel and TV series Wild Palms, co-produced and helped write Tracey Ullman’s State of the Union, has a story credit on A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and wrote Paul Bartel’s Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills. Even cooler, after interviewing Carlos Castaneda for Details magazine in 1994, Wagner became part of the mystic inner circle of the shaman, using the name of Lorenzo Drake.

Writer David Chaskin was also behind A Nightmare On Elm Street 2 and The Curse, which has Ovidio G. Assonitis as an executive producer and Lucio Fulci as an associate producer and special optical effects designer.

This is one strange movie that sadly no one really remembers. It doesn’t have the body count that some slasher fans look for and it may be too dream logic for many — the ending is completely out of reality and beautifully poetic — and it may honestly be just too much a piece of artwork when it should have been commerce.

Maybe this isn’t a movie that everyone can love and that’s just fine. However, I do recommend you watch it and become part of its world. Just watch out. If reality is truly a continuity of parks, Kessler could become part of your world.

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