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Silent Madness (1984)

Director: Simon Nuchtern
Starring: Belinda Montgomery, Vivica Lindfors, Sydney Lassick, Solly Marx, David Greenan, Roderick Cook, Jeffery Bingham, Rick Aiello
Rated R 87 min

SILENT MADNESS opens in an insane asylum, where budget cuts and a bumbling hospital administrator cause the release of a homicidal maniac named John Howard. Oops! Howard is somewhat of a local legend, having slaughtered a houseful of sorority girls years earlier. None of this sits well with a concerned psychiatrist named Dr. Joan Gilmore (Belinda Montgomery, Doogie Houser’s mom). Not only is she upset that the b-hole hospital chief, Dr. Kruger (Roderick Cook) is letting seriously mentally ill people out onto the streets, she’s doubly concerned about the release of a complete loon like Howard. For good reason, it seems. Howard gets right back into the swing of things. First he kills a couple who are having sex in a parked van. Then he snatches a girl on a skateboard, drags her into a boiler room and crushes her head in a vise. He does all of this in broad daylight, so it’s clear getting caught isn’t much of a concern for him. Howard sets out for the old sorority house where a group of girls are hanging out over spring break and dealing with their slightly crazed old house mother, Mrs. Collins (Vivica Lindfors). Meanwhile, Joan starts investigating the old murders while attempting to find John Howard’s whereabouts. She doesn’t get much help from the ineffectual Sheriff (Sydney Lassick), but finds an ally, and romantic interest, in newspaper man Howard Johns (Solly Marx). During the course of her investigation, Joan learns that Dr. Kruger has been conducting strange experiments on some of the more troubled patients -- including John Howard. Kruger wants to keep a lid on this so he dispatches a pair of goonish orderlies after Joan to prevent her from finding Howard before he does. While all this is going on, sorority girls start getting whacked by the psychotic Howard.

It seems like writer/director Simon Nuchtern was more interested in making a light whodunit than a typical horror film, and SILENT MADNESS ends up being one of the tamest slashers of the era. While it has an impressive body count, there’s little to no gore seen. The “R” rating comes from a handful of brief topless scenes, not onscreen violence. This was originally released in 3D, which appears to be limited to one very stupid looking scene in which an animated hatchet is hurled towards the camera, freezing in mid-air. It makes JAWS 3D look like AVATAR in comparison.

John Howard, escaped lunatic

Sydney Lassick is on the case

On a more positive note, Belinda Montgomery and Solly Marx turn in good performances as the likable pair of amateur sleuths who end up cracking open a mystery that ends up involving a little more than an escaped lunatic. Sydney Lassick is also fun as the unlikely sheriff. Watch for former genre goddess Elizabeth Kaitan as one of the ill-fated sorority girls. SILENT MADNESS has a great cast and some memorable characters, but is far too weak to be a horror film, and far too predictable to be a decent thriller. It’s not clear why Simon Nuchtern set out to make a slasher without the gore, but the movie is largely forgotten because of it.

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