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Sunday, April 29, 2012

MADISON COUNTY -- DVD review by porfle

A group of young people venture into the backwoods, have the usual ominous encounters with some hostile local-yokels, and then run into a masked serial killer who starts jabbing pointy things at them.  The fact that this synopsis describes not only MADISON COUNTY (2011) but an endless parade of slasher flicks churned out like sausage since the 80s pretty much lets you know what you're in for here. 

This time, the youngsters a-goin' where they oughtn't to are best buds James (Colley Bailey) and Will (Matt Mercer), Will's girlfriend Brooke (Joanna Sotomura), and her friend Jenna (Natalie Scheetz).  Brooke's surly big brother Lyle (Ace Marrero) also insists on coming along to make sure there's no hanky-panky between her and Will, whom he can't stand.  Their reason for traveling into the deep, dark backwoods of Arkansas is to track down the author of a book about a local serial killer so that Will can interview him for his college thesis. 

The mysterious killer, Damien Ewell, is said to have murdered dozens during his reign although a ditzy old lady named Erma (Adrienne Harrell), who runs the general store, insists he's merely an urban legend.  After locating the author's secluded house and finding it empty, the kids naturally split up and go off into the woods looking for him.  What happens to them after that isn't too hard to guess.  

What makes a movie like this interesting as opposed to just being more of the same is a script that adds something clever and new to the formula.  Unfortunately, MADISON COUNTY simply recycles the most basic elements of the slasher genre to come up with one of its less memorable entries.

After an interesting opening that almost looks like a continuation of the last scene in THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (a film this one would like very much to be), the story moves at a snail's pace establishing its main characters and getting them where they need to be in order to get killed.  There are a couple of jump scares early on, although it's mainly the ear-splitting musical stings that make us wince. 

Dialogue is functional at best, and the characters seem to wander around forever before getting offed in rather cursory fashion.  Gorehounds will be disappointed by the lack of inventive FX, while those looking for titillation will have to settle for a brief long shot of two topless girls swimming in a lake.  (Surprisingly, none of the main characters have sex, smoke weed, or utter the word "Party!", so I guess that could count as original.)

The killer--a lanky hillbilly wearing an oversized pig mask--looks and acts tiresomely familiar (Nick Principe fared much better as "Chromeskull" in the LAID TO REST movies), and, like Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and their indestructible ilk, he just keeps getting back up no matter how many times he's stabbed or bashed over the head.  The rest of the cast gamely do what they can with their characters, with Adrienne Harrell as "Erma" delivering an otherwise non-scary film's one truly creepy moment.

The DVD from Image Entertainment is in 2.35:1 widescreen with Dolby 5.1 surround sound.  No subtitles.  Extras consist of a commentary with director Eric England, producer Daniel F. Dunn, and actor Ace Merrero, plus the film's trailer and a cast and crew Q & A which took place at the 2011 ScreamFest. 

MADISON COUNTY is competently made, especially for a first-time director, and it's still way better than such dreck as MOTOR HOME MASSACRE, DARK FIELDS, or THE EVIL WOODS.  But it's just more of the same, and pretty dull at that.  Hopefully, next time these guys head out into the woods to shoot a slasher flick, they'll take a better script along with them.

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