In the 1989 horror film, I, Madman, Jenny Wright stars as Virginia. Virginia’s an aspiring actress who makes ends meet by working in a used bookstore. (I’m not sure how much money the typical used bookstore employee makes but I have to say that Virginia’s apartment is absolutely to die for.) Virginia is also dating a police detective named Richard (Clayton Rohner), who is handsome and sweet and looks good in a suit. In fact, the only problem with Richard is that he thinks that Virginia spends too much time reading trashy horror novels. According to him, they give her nightmares and they cause her imagination to run wild.
Richard’s not going to be happy to discover that Virginia has a new favorite author. His name is Malcolm Brand and, despite the fact that Virginia says that he’s better than Stephen King, he’s a mysteriously obscure author. In fact, no one but Virginia seems to have ever heard of him. Virginia has just finished reading Brand’s first book, Much of Madness, More of Sin. Now, she simply has to find his second book, which was called I, Madman.
(Personally, I think Much of Madness, More of Sin is a brilliant title. I, Madman on the other hand is a little bit bland, as far as titles go.)
When Virginia finally tracks down a copy of the book, she discovers that it is all about this mad scientist who falls in love with an actress. Because the scientist is horribly disfigured, the actress rejects him. So, the scientist starts killing people and stealing pieces of their faces, all so he can patch together a new face for himself.
It’s while she’s reading the book the strange things start to happen in Virginia’s life. For instance, the people around her start dying. When she witnesses one of her neighbors being murdered, she swears that the murder was committed by a man who had no nose …. just like in the book! Richard thinks that she’s letting her imagination run wild but Virginia soon comes to wonder if maybe she’s being stalked by the real Malcolm Brand….
I, Madman is an entertaining little horror film, one that sometimes comes across as being an extended episode of something like Tales From The Crypt. From the minute the movie started with Virginia curled up on her couch in her underwear, reading a trashy novel with her oversized reading glasses on and a storm raging outside, I was like, “Oh my God, they made a movie out of my life!” And really, this is one of the reasons why I, Madman makes such a good impression. As played by Jenny Wright, Virginia serves as a stand-in for every horror fan who has ever read a scary novel and immediately imagined themselves as either the protagonist or the victim. If you’ve ever had a nightmare after reading Stephen King or watching a horror movie, you’ll be able to relate to Virginia. Both Jenny Wright and Clayton Rohner give likable and quirky performances in the lead role and they’re surrounded by capable of character actors.
The film itself is a bit of an homage to the suspense classics of the past. It’s easy to compare Malcolm Brand’s novel to The Phantom of the Opera while a scene in which Virginia watches her neighbor play piano brings to mind Hitchcock’s Rear Window. When Virginia imagines herself as a character in one of Brand’s stories, the film even manages to work in some stop-motion animation. All in all, I, Madman is an entertaining horror film, perfect for October and any other season.