If you can't beat 'em join 'em. Simon Nuchtern's Silent Madness jumps into two raging 1980s trends - Slasher Movies and 3-D with gusto! Made on a shoestring budget and playing with every genre cliche in the book, the film offers some decent jumps, just enough gore, and some impressive 3-D photography all on a relative shoestring budget. Starring Belinda Montgomery and Viveca Lindfors the film is a fun slasher with a creepy silent madman killer stalking a group of scantly co-eds - now with extra dimension! Vinegar Syndrome releases their first 3-D film to Blu-ray offering three presentations: Flat 2-D, Digital 3-D, and Anaglyph (Red/Blue) 3-D lovingly restored by 3-D Film Archive on top of hours of excellent new bonus features to pick through.
Due to a clerical error, one of the worst psycho killers Howard Johns (Solly Marx) has been let free from the asylum when he should be locked up for life. Dr. Joan Gilmore (Belinda Montgomery) soon discovers the error but appears to be the only one worried about the danger this man poses. Fearing she's already too late, Dr. Gilmore heads out to the sorority house where Johns killed several young women decades earlier in the dim hope of averting another catastrophe.
As I've mentioned in several other horror reviews I've done for HDD, I grew up with a steady diet of slasher movies that were edited for television. Periodically if I was crafty enough I could slip one past my Mom at the local mom and pop rental shop. If one thing is for certain the 80s was a great decade for slasher movies! Granted, not every entry was great, but there are a few standouts. Now I personally wouldn't call Simon Nuchtern's Silent Madness a shining example for the sub-genre, but it's a fun one and I've always enjoyed it. I was about thirteen when I saw this for the first time. I'd always wanted to give it a shot because the bold red VHS box art was so striking, but it was always one that'd get overruled. When I finally saw it I wasn't let down, it was entertaining - but I'd seen this movie before. Many times before.
If there's one genuine knock to Silent Madness is that the film is pretty routine. The script by Bob Zimmerman and Bill Miling is pretty simple and to the point. Essentially it's John Carpenter's Halloween but with the killer returning to a sorority house like Black Christmas instead of his hometown. Howard Johns may not wear a creepy non-distinct mask, but he's in workman coveralls and stalks around from the shadows until he strikes dispatching young attractive co-eds at will in various gory ways. The difference here is it's all captured in glorious 3-D!
Thanks to Cinematographer Gerald Feil, Silent Madness makes great use of the format offering a variety of clever camera positions to enjoy one gnarly death after the next. He even repeats a gag from Friday the 13th Part 3 but instead of a speargun, it's a nail gun firing at the audience. There's even an animated effect early on that's pretty slick! But 3-D only gets you so far and while this movie does rely on a lot of gimmicks to give the audience that horror punch they're looking for, I do have to tip my hat to the overall solid cast. Belinda Montgomery gives it her all as the doctor trying to undo the Asylum's big mistake without going full "Doctor Loomis" with the role. Solly Marx may not have anything to say, but he does slap on a creepy face and certainly looks menacing. Sydney Lassick drops by as the lazy sheriff while David Greenan steps in for the inept handsome leading man routine. Viveca Lindfors pops up long enough to give a howdy-do lending some gravitas to this production and spill some important plot details. The rest of the cast does what they can, but as with any movie of this sort, they're here to be sliced and diced.
It had been a long time since I saw this movie in 2-D. I liked this movie when I saw it, but it was never really one that I sought out to add to my collection. Before Vinegar Syndrom's release, Silent Madness had never received a proper restoration effort preserving its original aspect ratio nor did it ever come in 3-D which is really the only reason I ever wanted to revisit this one. Now that it can be enjoyed in 3D, the film can be truly enjoyed as it's meant to be seen.
It's still a simple goofy movie, but the 3-D adds a kick to the show. It's also impressive to note that Simon Nuchtern pulled this production off on little more than $600,000. By comparison Friday the 13th Part 3 was made on a budget of almost four times that much! As a low-budget show, it's an admirable effort. The story could have used a fresher take, but it's a fun spin nonetheless. If you've never seen Silent Madness it's well worth a watch. It's a time capsule for an era where every up and coming filmmaker made their bones by jumping into the slasher movie craze of the early 80s. This one may not be original, but it's certainly better than a lot of the imitators that came along - and I would say better than some of the later installments for the mega-franchise entries that would make this particular horror sub-genre so tiresome.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Silent Madness makes it's Blu-ray debut from Vinegar Syndrome in a two-disc set. If you ordered from Vinegar Syndrome, you get an exclusive slipcover. Pressed on two Region Free BD-50 discs, Disc One contains the 2-D and Digital 3-D presentations while Disc Two offers the Anaglyph 3-D presentation. Both discs are housed in a sturdy two-disc clear case with reversible insert artwork with the classic red videotape cover artwork as the alternate option. Each disc loads to an animated main menu with traditional navigation options. The bulk of the bonus features are found on Disc 2. Also included are two pairs of themed Anaglyph 3-D glasses.
Vinegar Syndrome with additional restoration technical wizardry by 3-D Film Archive has delivered a truly terrific transfer for Silent Madness with three unique presentations! First, let's jump into the Stereoscopic "Digital 3D" release. 3-D Film Archive did a scene-by-scene alignment of the film elements and the results are often striking! At all of two-years-old when this film hit theaters, I was entirely too young to go and experience it in its glory. As with Friday the 13th Part 3, Gerald Feil shot this movie using the single-strip ArriVision 3-D technique or "Over/Under" as it's sometimes referred to. This allowed for a 3-D image without all the fuss of multiple cameras and synching the image, but it also means that two frames are effectively smashed into a single 35mm 2perf frame. As with a number of films shot with this method, details can be a bit touch and go. Likewise, occasional color banding around the edges of the frame can happen from time to time. There are a few occasional shots in this restoration where the color separation occurs but it's nothing too severe or distracting. Most of the time the image enjoys lively natural coloring with excellent primary pop, clear and impressive details with a natural film grain appearance, and amazing image depth. The setups for this film aren't that unique or crazy, most stay along the horizontal line of the frame, but there are plenty of great "out of the screen" effects to enjoy with a deep Z-Axis appearance. The elements are in terrific shape without any serious issues. There are a couple of optical effects that suffer from slight speckling or appear "dirtier" but otherwise, it's in great shape. 5/5
For the Anaglyph or "Red/Blue" presentation, 3-D Film Archive used their proprietary Adaptive Multi-band Anaglyph Encoding and the results are pretty terrific. While you don't get the natural colors of the proper Stereoscopic 3-D presentation, the Red/Blue glasses don't allow for that, this is a pretty great 3-D presentation. I don't normally enjoy Anaglyph 3-D, my eyes get really screwy with those colored glasses and it often triggers a migraine for me within minutes, but this time around I didn't have that trouble. I'm very willing to chalk that success up to 3-D Film Archive and their encoding process. Between the first Friday the 13th Part 3 Blu-ray release and a handful of other discs to come around over the years, I've never had much luck enjoying Anaglyph but this worked beautifully for me with minimal-to-no eyestrain. I did feel there was a little more "ghosting" with this presentation versus the Digital 3-D, but this is still pretty good and if you don't have a compatible television or projector, this should be a solid option for you to enjoy the full three-dimensional glory this flick has to offer. 4/5
And per usual for any 3-D Blu-ray release, we also have a standard 2-D release that in of itself is pretty great. However, I felt like the 2-D lost some of the visual punch and value as the 3-D presentations. Flat, this movie just draws a lot of attention to the purposefully staged photography. Like watching Jaws 3 - there's are pop-out effects that just look odd in 2-D, but make perfect sense in 3-D. That fault set aside, the image is clean and offers some great detail levels. As was the case for the Digital 3-D there are a couple of shots that have some of the slight color separations around the edges, but those shots don't last long enough to be too distracting. All in all, this is a fine presentation, but I do feel if you're going to get your money's worth, the 3-D presentations are the way to go. 4/5
Silent Madness earns high marks for its DTS-HD MA 2.0 track that punches all of the right buttons. The score - as goofy as that creepy theme music sounds, becomes infectious over time, and having watched this now about three times through in the last couple days has become a constant earworm. Dialog is clear for the most part, there are a couple of sequences here and there where voices sound a little soft and indistinct, but the conversations aren't central to the story, they're incidental to the location. Atmospherics lend well to a robust soundstage - the boiler room where so much of the action takes place offers a nice echoing quality with steam and other effects to set the scene. No age-related issues persist, hiss or pops are nonexistent. Levels are on point without needing to be adjusted. All in all a good mix for a nice creepy movie.
Another great Vinegar Syndrome release offering fans a terrific assortment of new bonus features to pick through. At the top of the pack is an audio commentary featuring Director Simon Nuchtern and moderated by Michael Gingold. It's a nice lively track and informative. Next is a commentary by The Hysteria Continues crew and that's a blast. But if you're looking for some great meat to chew into, the "Method to the Madness" making-of documentary is an essential piece with a lot of great cast and crew interviews. If you're a fan you should have a blast picking through all of these.
While Silent Madness plays very much like a thriller slowly building steam, the final act is 100% slasher horror. It may start a bit tedious with an unmistakable sense of deja vu thanks to its genre trappings, but the film pays off in the end. And thanks to Vinegar Syndrome and always talented restoration team at 3-D Film Archive, we get to fully enjoy Silent Madness the way it was meant to be seen in all of its 1980s 3-D glory. The Digital 3-D presentation is excellent, the Anaglyph presentation isn't my preferred method but is impressive in its own way, and if you hate 3-D the 2-D presentation is pretty fantastic as well. Toss in an effective audio mix to ratchet up the creepy thrills and a few hours of great bonus features, you have a release well worth checking out. If you're a 3-D junkie this is an essential pick up - Highly Recommended.