Have you ever tried to carry your wireless Casio keyboard down to the basement, tripped over a dildo (damn kids!), and watched your precious beep machine crash into every step on the way down? Well, the composer for Silent Madness happened to have the tape running the last time this happened to him and decided to build an entire musical score around that motif. Art is truly a mysterious beast sometimes.
Speaking of art, the movie opens with a pan down the frame of a building, just like Antonioni's La Notte. Either it’s a coincidence, or the director primarily responsible for the movie Snuff thinks that people going to see a movie about a burnt maniac throwing axes at teenage girls will make the connection to Michelangelo’s oeuvre. The dreamer in me is hoping for the latter.
Fancy pants crap aside, the plot begins with some nuthouse nurse complaining about some nutbag asshole being released because he's "unfit for society". The doctors tell her to shut up because they don’t have enough funding, he's fine, paranoia is bad for you, it’s a plot device, etc. However, the nurse wields the power of an Apple IIe computer, and finds out that they accidentally released the wrong patient (they share similar names), a guy that is even more of a nutbar than the guy that is unfit for society. Good to know the funny farm is on the ball.
Meanwhile, two "teens" are making out in a van, including the beefcake counselor from Sleepaway Camp and some chick that has no qualms about showcasing her bosom buddies (I personally prefer this version of the show). Of course, the escaped nutbar makes the most of his new found freedom by planting a sledgehammer into the back windshield of the couple’s blue shag interor conversion van mere moments after escaping.
The killer then tosses a hatchet into the girl’s back, and since the movie is in 3-D, the hatchet is supposed to come through the screen (theatrically anyways, although you can probably get the VHS to work in 3-D if you lick a couple of toads beforehand). This would undoubtedly be too dangerous to do for real, so they apparently asked Industrial Light and Magic to conjure up an animated hatchet circa 1984. Well, George Lucas said no (he was busy designing Ewok lunch boxes), so instead, they threw something together at the last minute using that Apple IIe back at the nuthouse. That's some magical shit.
Later on, Liz Caiten gets out of her college class, kisses her boyfriend (Danny Aiello's son), and hops on her skateboard wearing an adorable matching red athletic skating get-up. She is quickly snagged off her board by the killer and dragged into a garage, where he uses a handy vice to squeeze her pretty blonde head into a sickening pile of spam loaf. What a waste of a perfect outfit.
A fashionable sorority house is bursting with fun, music, and excitement; the girls play Monopoly, with one of them performing a slutty dance, and another girl performing the decidedly less slutty Fur Elise on piano. The house mother (played by Viveca Lindfors, no doubt in dire need of grocery money) comes in just as Lorraine the slut is flashing her bra, and Viveca bellows about "sluts and whores and temptation". Lorraine then heads down to the basement to find some luggage, wearing her short red jogging shorts and adorable pink Adidas. Apparently, the sorority basement is a vast, factory-esque boiler room, and the storage closet lies in its deepest recesses. Regardless, she is snatched up by her poor Adidas and dispatched with a pipe. It's too bad that these adorably athletic outfits are not allowed to live on for more than a single scene.
I can think of few better instances of Walkman fashion than this one.
Our heroine asks the assistance of the local sheriff, what with a killer nutbar running around. Usually, members of the pork patrol in these kinds of movies at least pretend to give a shit about upholding the law and protecting its citizens. Not this asshole. He’s sleeping at his desk the first time we see him, doesn’t believe a word the desperate heroine tells him at any point and, in a moment of bacon-fueled clarity, asks her “why don’t you just get the fuck outta here and let me eat?”. Instead of wearing a uniform, all of these fat fuck cops should just wear bermuda shorts, flip flops, and that question emblazoned on a XXXXL t-shirt.
Of course, there is a backstory for the killer, lest we wrongly presume that madness overflows from an arbitrary reservoir. During rush week (that's a sorority thing, not a week when you only listen to Rush you friggin' nerd) sometime in the 50's, some hopeful girl pledges are getting their asses spanked as part of their initiation (although they were probably being naughty anyways). They decide to mess with the eventual psycho killer by getting him drunk, flashing their tits at him, and paddling his ass. Instead of being stoked beyond belief at his good fortune, he is somehow annoyed by all of this, to the point that he grabs a nail gun and kills all five of the girls ("nailing" them in some Freudian repression, possibly).
Ahhhh, remember the 50's? Doesn't this image just bring you back to a time when things were simpler and way more black and white?
Of course, I could just spoil everything like a scumbag (although really, this is one you should be able to figure out), but I'll just point out my favorite scene. Two girls are hanging out in the sorority game room/workout room, and the whole thing is oh-so-eighties (the Nagel-style poster on the wall is sort of an eightiesness stamp of approval). One is doing pull ups, wearing a neon pink headband and neon blue leotard, and the other is wearing a blue denim mini-skirt, playing the Dragon’s Lair arcade coin-op. They both get killed, including a sweet move where the killer ties a jump rope around a girl’s neck, attaches a dumbbell to the other end, and then tosses the dumbbell out the window, creating an athletically themed lynching.
However, the more important question is; how the hell did they manage to afford a Dragon’s Lair arcade machine? I guess the real answer is that the game company was trying to promote their fairly new machine by sticking it in a movie. In terms of the narrative, a few sorority girls would never have been able to afford it, as it’s a laserdisc based game that cost about $4000 when it came out. I mean, if you can afford to spend $4000 on a video game circa 1984, you probably don't need to go to college.
If you don’t know, Dragon’s Lair was basically a Don Bluth cartoon masquerading as a video game. You would watch animated sequences and then occasionally have to press a button at the right moment to keep from dying (and keep the cartoon rolling). It also cost 50 cents instead of the usual quarter, so I would usually just let some other asshole play it and just stand behind him and watch. So basically, the laserdisc games were a gimmick, just like the 3-D stuff. However, in both cases, you can just ignore the gimmicks and enjoy them as "cinema".
Silent Madness no doubt delivers the silly 80's slasher goods, but maybe the biggest takeaway is that it contains the most bizarrely designed sorority house in the history of movies, or even the history of terrible ideas ripped from the drafting board of an insane architect with a gaping head wound. Having said that, I have a feeling that if I ever commission an architect to design a house, it will bear many similarities to this one; a wide open 80’s themed game room, with a vast, creepy labyrinth below. I doubt I'll find myself rich enough to be able to do that anytime soon, but a boy can dream.
P.S. Lazy Baker Halloween review #6 out of 11. Shit is really getting real yo.