Because her husband’s a dick who spends too much time working and not enough time taking the day off, Cassie (Mia Sara) grabs her five year-old daughter, Samantha (Kayla Buglewicz) and heads off for her sister’s house. When Cassie stops at a gas station to fill up the car, she’s spotted by seedy Roy Scudder (Burt Reynolds!). Roy puts down his cigar long enough to tamper with her car. When it breaks down a few miles down the role, Roy drives up and offers Cassie and Samantha a ride back to his place, where he can fix her car or where she can at least call for hep. Not realizing that she’s in a direct-to-video horror movie, Cassie accepts.
Big mistake! Roy’s wife, Georgina (Angie Dickinson!), has not been the same since the mysterious death of her son and Georgina and Roy’s other child, Jill (Candace Huston, daughter of the film’s director and granddaughter of John Huston), needs a playmate. Roy has decided that Samantha fits the bill. Cassie is locked in a room while Samantha is turned into Jill’s slave and Roy deals with the angry ghost of his abusive father (William Hickey!).
You have to feel bad for Burt Reynolds. He made this film at a time when his career was in decline. His TV show was no longer on the air. Boogie Nights was still two years away. The man had bills to pay. Can you blame Burt for accepting any role that came his way, especially if it meant a chance to co-star with Angie Dickinson and be directed by the son of John Huston? Reynolds was famous for hating even his good films so you can only imagine what he must have thought about The Maddening. Fortunately, since Burt was playing a total psycho in The Maddening, he could at least channel his feeling into the role. Throughout ever minute of The Maddening, Burt is totally and thoroughly unhinged and angry in the way that only the former number one star in America could be upon having to settle for a role in a direct-to-video horror film. He yells at his ghost father. He slits throats. He beats people into unconsciousness. He does everything that a normal movie psycho does but, when he does it, it’s even more memorable because he’s Burt Reynolds. Burt and Angie Dickinson playing the type of role that Bette Davis would have played for Robert Aldrich in the 60s are not just the main reasons to watch this movie. They’re the only reasons.
This was Burt’s only horror film and it’s too bad that it couldn’t have been a better one. But if it helped Burt keep the lights on during the lean years of the early 90s, good.