By YASMINA KETITA
The Gate (1987)is one of my all time favourite movies, not just in the horror genre, but in film history. However, its prowess certainly needs no additional praise, as many are already aware of its astonishing legacy. Therefore, I have chosen to write on Tibor Takács’ subsequent film released between The Gate and The Gate II: Trespassers (1990) a movie that I truly admire and believe should gain more recognition, 1989’s I, MADMAN. I’ve always been very fond of this film as I am an avid book reader and love the idea of being so immersed in reading a horror story that the story itself becomes reality, a manifested horror that you cannot escape.
I, MADMAN begins with a story within a story. In a hotel in the 1940s, the front desk is alerted to animal noises arising out of Dr. Kessler’s room, only to find out that they’re coming from a monster that bears a striking resemblance to the minions from The Gate. That’s because the visual effects designer for The Gate Randall William Cook, worked on I, MADMAN , not just as a sculptor, but playing the role of Dr. Kessler as well. Cut to present day, the scene opens with Virginia, played by the beautiful Jenny Wright from Near Dark (1987), slamming down the book she’s reading that tells the story of the mad Dr. Kessler. Despite her fear of the book, luckily her boyfriend Richard (Clayton Rohner from 1989’s Nightwish, another movie covered by The Rewind Zone) is a police officer and comes over often to ease her frightened state.
Virginia works in a bookstore with her friend Mona (Stephanie Hodge), and is looking for the sequel to the book she just finished titled I, Madman but her frustrated search is met with no results. When she comes home from an acting lesson, she finds the book mysteriously waiting at her door, gifted to her from who she presumes must have been Mona. Virginia begins reading I, Madman and quickly succumbs to paranoia and fear, even though she can’t help but engage herself further into the story. While Virginia reads, she imagines herself as Dr. Kessler’s victim: a gorgeous actress named Anna that he has fallen in love with who does not reciprocate his adoration due to his physical abnormalities. Her rejection leads him into madness where he self-administers novocaine and slices away at his face with a scalpel, cutting off his ears, nose and lips, crazy with love for his precious Anna.
As the book further absorbs Virginia, Richard begins to notice her distraught demeanour as she changes, displaying neurotic behaviour. Then once she begins to have delusions of Dr. Kessler, her paranoia exacerbates. During this time however, a more nefarious agenda is at play in the real world: murder. Virginia believes the murders occurring in real life are somehow related to the murders in the book and when Richard brings her in for questioning, no one believes her. She even questions her own sanity when Dr. Kessler pays another visit at the police station, of course, when she’s alone. When she realizes she’s on her own, she seeks out the publishing company and commences her own investigation leading to more insight on Malcolm Grand, the author of I, Madman, who she discovers was schizophrenic.
As more murders occur, Richard and the police begin to take Virginia into more serious consideration once they realize her connection to all the victims. Because her claim of the murders happening in real life are murders from the book, she concludes the next murder is already preconceived so she aides in helping the police find the killer. Desperate without any other leads, the police agree to follow Virginia’s belief by setting up a stunt for the killer to play right into, in hopes it’ll lead to his capture and bring an end to Virginia’s waking nightmare.
I like Virginia a lot; in fact one of my dream jobs is to work in an independent bookstore or library. Being consumed by a good story is what makes a great read whether it be fiction or non. I, MADMAN delves into the realm of fiction melting into reality, a horror narrative that is more terrifying than any unearthly monster one can imagine. I can’t help but wonder if Tibor Takács purposefully made an honorary nod to Alfred Hitchcock by including a man playing the piano in his apartment across the street. Virginia often reads to the sounds of his playing and likes to watch him through their windows, and well, we’ve all seen what happens in Rear Window (1954).