Shot with the ArriVision 3-D camera system, Silent Madness wasn’t just late to the 80’s 3D revival, it was late to the slasher madness too. It was directed by Simon Nuchtern, president of August Films. He brought over plenty of foreign films and had them re-edited for American tastes, like the film that the Findlays shot in Argentina called The Slaughter, which was released as Snuff. He also brought Karate Kiba to U.S. theaters with a new open and called it The Bodyguard and that’s why we call marijuana chiba, as well as directing New York Nights and Savage Dawn.
You have to love how Wikipedia has the writer of this movie, Bob Zimmerman, linked to Bob Dylan. Nope. This Bob was part of the camera crew for Don’t Go in the House and Nightmare. His co-writer was Bill Milling, who may be better known as an adult director using the names Philip Drexler Jr. (A Scent of Heather) and G.W. Hunter (Heart Throbs), Craig Ashwood (All American Girls), William J. Haddington Jr. (When A Woman Calls), Chiang (The Vixens of Kung Fu (A Tale of Yin Yang), Jim Hunter (Up Up and Away), Luis F. Antonero (Temptations) and Bill or Dexter Eagle (Virgin Snow). Some of the dialogue was written by Nelson DeMille, who would go on to write the book The General’s Daughter. They were all working from a story by Nuchtern.
The Cresthaven Mental Institute is, charitably, a mess. It’s also packed with patients, so they decide to just declare several of the patients cured, which means that Howard Johns (Solly Marx, Honcho from Savage Dawn, the Samurai from Neon Maniacs and plenty of stunt work too) is let go instead of John Howard. Years ago, after peeping on some sorority sisters, they had decided to strip for him — because that’s how we dealt with Me Too moments back then, kind of like giving someone a whole carton of cigarettes to smoke when all they wanted was one, and that’s a bad euphenism and I don’t condone this kind of behavior — and he lost it and killed them all. So to prove that the nature vs. nurture argument is a joke and the seventeen years of treatment did nothing, the very first thing John does when he gets released is kill an aardvarking couple in their van with a hatchet and a sledgehammer.
Dr. Joan Gilmore (Belinda Montgomery, who has been the love interest for The Man from Atlantis, Crockett’s ex-wife on Miami Vice and Doogie Howser, M.D.‘s mother) realizes that something smells bad in Denmark — or Cresthaven — and starts looking into this, only to learn that Howard Johns was already dead when the computer snafu happened. She teams up with a reporter and goes undercover as a legacy at the sorority where everything when wrong all those years ago, because she obviously realizes that she’s in a slasher movie and the killer always comes back to the scene of the crime.
There are so many plot threads going on here. There’s also the conspiracy at the mental hospital and the cyborg experiments being done on the patients that goes nowhere. Additionally two killers hired by Dr. Kruger* (Roderick Cook, who shows up in two of Becca’s favorite childhood films, 9 1/2 Weeks and Spellbinder, movies no seven-year-old should be watching and that’s why I love her) are on hand to kill off our protagonists. And there’s the killer coming back to the sorority house.
I’ve gotten this far and forgotten to inform you that Sydney Lassick (sure, he was Mr. Fromm in Carrie, but he’s also in Skatetown U.S.A.; 1941; Alligator; The Unseen and shows up as Mr. Lowry in Lady In White) plays the law in this and the house mother is Viveca Lindfors (The Bell from Hell, Creepshow). And two of the teens — Janes and Paul — are played by Katherine Kamhi and Paul DeAngelo, who we all know better as Meg and Ronnie from Sleepaway Camp.
Oh! One of the sorority girls — Barbara — is Elizabeth Kaitan from Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2, Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood, Roller Blade Warriors: Taken by Force and, of course, Candy from Vice Academy 3 through 6.
Shot under the title Dark Sunday, with alternate names thrown about like Beautiful Screamers, The Omega Factor” and The Nightkillers, I have really no idea why this is called Silent Madness.
Teens are killed by vice, by steam, by nailgun and by aerobicide, while drills and crowbars and broken mirrors take out some of the antagonists. You’ll wonder, when we knew that toxic masculinity and the health care system were both the biggest issues we’d be facing as a society way back in 1984, why did we just concentrate on making sure the slasher killer was dead instead of working on the root cause? And that’s why we are where we are, except you know, there’s no real Jason Vorhees. Or Howard Johnson. Or John Howard.
Vinegar Syndrome has announced that they are putting out a 3D movie this year. This would seem to be the right one, seeing as how it fits perfectly into the other films they’ve released.
*Seeing as how this was really shot in 1983, it’s prescient that the bad guy has that name and works out of a boiler room.