Customer Reviews: Madhouse
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VINE VOICEon September 1, 2005
'Madhouse' is a visual treat for those who love horror flicks. It begins with a flashy, fleshy kaleidoscope of images that hooks you even during the intro; surreal, insane images that tease your madness.

Young Clark Stevens (Joshua Leonard) arrives at Cunningham Hall, a Mental Health Facility, for his internship. He is full of clever ideas to make the facility cleaner and more functional. Dr. Franks (the talented Lance Henrikson) doesn't receive Clark's ideas pleasantly. He informs Clark that things are fine just the way they are, and that Clark will be expected to do his job and nothing more.

Clark meets Dr. Morton (who reminded me of Henry Gibson but is played by Leslie Jordan), an absentminded, likeable guy who's been at Cunningham Hall for 25 years. There's Head Nurse Hendricks (Dendrie Taylor), who is a little like Nurse Ratchett in 'Cuckoos Nest'.

Showing Clark around the facility is pretty co-worker Sara (Jordan Ladd) who has an easygoing temperament and shrugs off Hendricks gruffness. When Sara's tour takes Clark to the basement, you, the viewer, are in for a treat. This is a spooky place. It's lockup time down here, where the "patients everyone wants to forget about" goes.

Right about the time Clark begins to witness some pretty unsavory events happening around Cunningham Hall, people begin to die. For the aficionado, there is a lovely, grisly tongue-severing scene not to be missed. The patient in Cell 44, down in the basement, begins to talk to Clark. He has some unsettling things to say, and seems to know an awful lot about the gruesome events upstairs. About the time Clark decides he's had enough, it's too late.

Lion's Gate Films has been putting out some very good films lately. 'Madhouse' was good enough for theater release; I don't know why it went straight to DVD, other than possible competition from 'Saw'. While the plot was predictable and not terribly unique, there are some nice twists involved. The atmosphere is excellent; phenomenally creepy and dark. The acting is good and the gore is satisfyingly present, with decent FX. Not as good as 'Saw', but far, far better than 'The Grudge' or its ilk.

Rent it first, but you may find yourself buying it. Enjoy!
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Madhouse proved to be quite a pleasant surprise for this horror fan. I really liked a lot of what first-time writer-director (not to mention former horror actor) William Butler tried to do here. It was also something of a kick to see Joshua Leonard of The Blair Witch Project fame once again (he's left the woods outside Burkittsville far behind, trading up to a rather geeky new look for this film). There's a fair share of gore, a nicely claustrophobic feel to the whole experience, quite effective ghostly manifestations, some wickedly deft plot twists, and a really cool, darkly surreal opening montage to start things out on the right foot. Jordan Ladd is a delight, and the intimidating presence of Lance Henriksen is put to pretty good use. I also found the plot to be surprisingly complex and methodically laid out. I for one had my expectations altered a time or two when the final scenes rolled around. Some people talk about the ending being obvious (I disagree) or the film trying to do too much, but Madhouse, in my opinion, succeeds admirably in setting itself apart from other lunatic asylum-based horror films. This thing has a look and feel all its own, and I honestly don't see how any horror fan could not enjoy this film.

Joshua Leonard plays Clark Stephens, a super-smart student doing his internship at a mental institution. He is sort of a know-it-all who is less than impressed by the condition of Cunningham Hall and the way its patients are treated. The man in charge, Dr. Franks (Henriksen) doesn't really care about making improvements, though; as a matter of fact, he doesn't even seem to care about curing anybody. The other two doctors are friendly enough, but the head nurse is something of a battleaxe. Fortunately for Clark, there's a young nurse named Sara (Ladd) who, besides being cute as a button, shows him around and clues him in on how things work around there. By and large, this is not a healthy place, and some of the "caregivers" don't belong anywhere near the mental health profession. Clark gets off on the wrong foot, and things basically go downhill from there.

Cunningham Hall seems to have a little bit of a problem with people dying ugly, violent deaths there. A consistent outward flow of body bags filled with colleagues tends to raise the stress level among the staff, and the fact that Clark keeps seeing a ghostly little boy running around the place doesn't do any wonders for his state of mind. Besides Sara, Clark's closest confidante becomes a mysterious patient dwelling in the shadows of a cell down in the high security ward. Obviously, a mental health professional should not take the words of a caged schizophrenic too seriously, but the guy seems to know things and makes more sense than the men in the white coats. All of this lends an air of suspenseful mystery to the story. As things work their way toward a conclusion, the writer-director does a wonderful job of giving us false leads and turning the whole story around on a dime; as I said, he kept me guessing until the very end. I can't imagine why some would say the ending ruins the film; as far as I'm concerned, the ending makes what might have been a good horror film into a well-nigh great horror film.

As a gorehound, I appreciated the blood and gore that this film threw my way, but I was most impressed by the plot. Maybe there's a weak spot or two here or there, but overall Madhouse gives us a plot that is much more complicated than your average horror film - once you know the whole story, you instantly think about certain earlier scenes that contained clues you might not have picked up on at the time. This is a much more intelligent script than I'm used to seeing in horror films. That is just one of many reasons I personally give Madhouse five stars.
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Madhouse (William Butler, 2004)

An hour into William Butler's Madhouse, a thriller that should have been much, much better than it is, I was ready to sing its praises to the moon and back--it's just the right combination of weird characters, weird situations, and outrageous mystery to press all my buttons. Then, after a bit more meandering, we get to the Big Reveal and, well, the movie has set so many traps for itself that it would've taken an immortal director to sidestep them all. Which is not to say it's not worth watching, but it sets the viewer up for some unreasonable expectations.

Plot: Clark Stevens (The Blair Witch Project's Joshua Leonard) is a new intern at an asylum being held together by spit, duct tape, and the indomitable will of Dr. Franks (Lance Henriksen), who runs the place with both an iron fist and an iron Girl Friday, Nurse Hendricks (The Fighter's Dendrie Taylor). As soon as Clark bunks down for his first night, weird things begin to happen, and pretty soon, he's seeing the ghost of a small boy roaming the halls, striking up a friendship with Ben London, the scariest guy in the psycho wing, and embarking on a friendship-which-could-end-up-being-a-tentative-romance with a fellow intern, Sara (Grace's Jordan Ladd). The last of those may be the weirdest of all. But when Nurse Hendricks is discovered the next morning murdered in the basement, Clark seizes the opportunity to investigate as a way of trying to uncover what he suspects to be corruption in the Franks regime.

It's all quite wonderful until we get to the Big Reveal, which kind of falls flat before immediately going as far over the top as it can. But I still had more fun with this movie than I expected to, which in the end is what it's all about, as far as I'm concerned. Good acting, good pace, and a well-earned atmosphere for most of the film gets a recommend from this camp. ***
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on March 25, 2012
This is an excellent ghost/horror mystery that takes place in a mental hospital. Joshua Leonard is a young intern who comes to work at the hospital. He quickly sees that things are not quite right. As he is investigating the strange going-ons he starts to see the ghost of a young boy. He is given conflicting stories. The patients are considered to be very bad off, although some seem very sane.

I loved the visual effects, both in the beginning and later on during the tale. Excellent use of shadows and lighting coupled with a good soundtrack. The acting was good. The plot tells you something is wrong and there must be a twist.

Brief sex, nudity and f-bomb.
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on September 14, 2006
And this movie slipped under the wires. It is a good movie...and proving to me that anything Joshua Leonard is in will be worth a look. It has creepy moments...and twists along the way...but it is all easy to follow. I would have enjoyed seeing more of the head nurse act...she was off the wall! Smiling a Joshua one moment...glaring and moving her eyes to your eye level the next in a stern stare down like a snake.

Red herring driven, the plot will keep you entertained. And guessing as to who or what is killing the staff......
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on January 13, 2011
Kinda what you'd expect from an insane asylum movie. Same ol, same ol! It's has a pretty good story. The first half of the movie is enjoyable, but then it pretty much fell apart towards the end. I'm glad I watched it but won't watch it again!
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on January 3, 2006
[brief plot synopsis]

Clark (Joshua Leonard) is a young and idealistic new intern at a run-down and out-dated mental health facility. His aspirations for cleaning the place hit a snag when he butts heads with Dr. Franks (Lance Henrikson) who seems to not mind that the patients never seem to get any better. Shortly Clark begins seeing things and death and mayhem invade the reality of the "Madhouse". Together Clark and Sara must uncover who or what it is that stalks the asylum and survive the massacre.

[good things]

Nicely directed, some pretty good kills, and a good story. The directing was superb, and it gave us some nice visual experiences, great cinematography, and all around tight scenery. There weren't many kills in this, but the ones it showed were pretty brutal and bloody. I also liked the cast, alot of good actors, and alot of very seasoned veterans (Lance Henrickson and Leslie Jordan).

[the bad]

It was hard for me to believe that an asylum like this existed. I don't see alot of this happening in real life, and I guess it is a horror film and they don't really have to mirror reality. I would have also liked more kills. While the script wasn't at all unique, but nicely done and directed, it was almost obvious who the killer was.

[final thoughts]

I may be playing favorites with this because William Butler is a friend, but it is a damn good movie. The all around feel to this movie is pretty cold and eerie. Joshua Leonard (from Blair Witch Project) delivers a great performance that almost makes me forget about his role (as himself) in The Blair Witch Project. Each character was nicely done and scripted. Even though the script could have taken a few different turns and made the story a bit harder to figure out, I still feel this is one of the better movies to be released in 2004.
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on February 1, 2013
Disturbing images...check! Run down asylum...check! Gratuitous horror movie semi sex scene...check! Things that make you jump...check!

Okay in all seriousness this movie hits on just about every point a horror junkie would expect out of an asylum horror flick. It has that shut in Shutter Island feel as far as being remote and you can use your imagination to take yourself back to House on Haunted Hill when Vannacutt was running things. With that frame of reference you can settle in for this movie.

The acting is not terrible like some of the movies I have had to flat out shut off because I couldn't even make it through the first five minutes. The plot is developed and the ends are tied up in the end like a pretty package. Be aware that there is a lot going on a once as far as little issues with the characters or with the institution I suppose for lack of a better word. The movie feels like it is going to move quickly and then slows down, but it was not unbearable. I had a little bit of a problem with Sarah's character, but that was only because of the pace it was done at (you'll understand if you watch).

If you take anything away from this movie it should be this: meatloaf is not a midnight snack.

I gave this movie 4 stars and not 5 as 5 is kind of like saying "I love you and want to marry you" for me. Four stars means "hey we can date for a while". It was a good movie, but I'm not ready to get too serious with it.
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on February 7, 2012
'Madhouse' and 'High Tension' are both two of some of my favorite movies. I love a good movie that has a crazy twist at the end and this is one of them. I like 'Madhouse' on a few different levels because of a few different reasons but it may not necessarily be a good movie for everyone. I like it because it's twisted and dark. The acting is pretty good...right? Lol. I think that I don't notice things bad with movies that I really like haha.

'Madhouse' takes place in a mental institution. It's about this doctor who is working there for his internship and all the other doctors, security and nurses are like crazy...sort of. They abuse the patients and all that kind of stuff. And there is this major twist at the end of the movie which is super amazing! So, I like that it takes place in a mental hospital because, that's like my dream job. It sounds pretty morbid I guess but I would love to work there and I'm actually going to school to be a psychiatric nurse practitioner. And I like that it has a twist at the end and shows just how bad some of these places can be.

Anyways, I think that 'Madhouse' is awesome and you should definitely check it out. Also, if you haven't seen High Tension, I recommend that one too both are amazing and the same type of movie. I'm probably going to review 'High Tension' soon too so watch out for that. For now, watch 'Madhouse' it's pretty sweet! I'm surprised more people don't know about it...
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on June 9, 2009
I absolutely loved this movie and I think it is a shame that hardly anybody knows about it. I have watched a ton of crappy to average bargain bin horror movies but every once in a while you find a gem that somehow got lost in the crowd. This is one of those movies. My one complaint is that the alternate ending which is included on the DVD is soooo much better than the "real" ending (that I'm sure a bunch of corporate tards made them use so they could leave it open for a sequel). I always stop the dvd when I know the ending is coming and switch to the alternate ending and pretend the "real" ending doesn't exist. But regardless - this movie is definitely a diamond in the rough.
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