Usually the kind of flick commonly referred to as a slasher flick is not exactly my forte. Still, every so often when hanging out with some friends I can get into one. This doesn’t occur often but as an aficionado of cinema I do have to address this genre even if it is not my favorite. The old school slasher flicks like ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ or ‘Friday the Thirteenth’ both launched exceptionally prolific franchises that have cumulatively brought in close to a billion dollars. As such the genre cannot be easily dismissed. When they tip over to what is rightly called torture porn then the goal of entertainment has been superseded by pain and blood lust on the most primitive level. The 2011 horror movie, ‘Madison County’ endeavors to more of a crush note to the iconic slasher movies of the eighties and their predecessors, the original flicks from the horror exploitation flicks of the seventies that helped to define the grind house era of my youth. The director of this film, Eric England is too young to have participated in with wave of the slasher film but based on the published list of filmmakers that influenced him it is fairly obvious that seventies and eighties horror had a profound influence in his film preferences and directorial style. Perhaps this contributed to why I was more entertained by this film than most of the current influx of slasher movies. There is a refreshing honesty to this film. It make no pretense of being anything more than what it is; an afternoon of gross fun. The more torture oriented fair that has dominated the Cineplex lately always appears to be in a competition to see who can gross out the audience more readily or receive the most condemnations from parents, teachers and religious leaders. This movie just felt different from that. Yes, it hits every single archetype and trope we have come to expect from this sort of movie but it comes across with a tongue in glint of self satire that was one of the standard characteristics of the traditional grind house horror film. the isn’t a glint of pretension here, just a movie like we use to watch on a Friday night in that dilapidated old movie house we loved to go to.
The title ‘Madison County’ may bring up visions of romance and quant covered bridges but none of that is in evidence here. What is present is a horror movie done along traditional lines. Keeping in mind this homage to grind house flicks it is acceptable to tightly follow the established formula. Those too young to remember should keep in mind that originality was a primary concern with these movies. That said, let’s get into the plot. A group of attractive college students journey to a secluded little town in the mountains in order to interview the reclusive author of a book about a particularly gruesome serial killer. The focus of his book is a string of murders that shook the small community over twenty years ago. Know it all city kids, isolated wooded area and a history of ghastly killings and you have the recipe for terror. Now that the ingredients on the kitchen table let’s go for the embellishments, the added spices to make this serving a little different. Writer/director Eric England keeps on track with the classics with a macabre touch. The antagonists here are familiar to fans of slasher films, inbred miscreants that have a perchance for moonshine and murdering anyone that happens by. There is a novel additional prop employed here, a pig’s head. It’s sufficiently creepy an image to stick in your mind long after the closing credits roll by. Pork is not only the other white meat but in this part of Madison County it is a fashionable Chapeau for the chromosome deficient serial killer on the go. It provides head cover, hides your identity and terrorizes your hapless victims while also serving as the basis for a robust head cheese should the crazed killer be so disposed.
One major advantage of England not taking his script overly seriously is it allowed him to infuse the story with the right amount of wry, dark humor. In that regard this movie is somewhat reminiscent of the EC horror comics like ‘Tales from the Crypt’. Those little pulp publications were universally denounced but the fact always remained, kids loved them. This is what you will wind up feeling about this movie. It is admittedly cheesy, predicable and gory but ultimately it was a bunch of fun to watch. There is no reason to go over the details of the story, you know what happens before the story gets there. The cast was chosen for their general attractiveness and, at least for the young women, the ability to achieve a wall shaking decibel level while screaming.
There is running, screaming, dying enough to keep you and your friends glued to the screen. You might fall into a sort of ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000 vibe while watching but that is entirely consistent with the whole grind house feeling that pervades the movie. It just demands audience participation; shouting at the screen and futility trying to warn the nubile young women what terror awaits around the next corner. It is not really a satire of these classic films but truly homage to back when horror was fun to watch.