A young woman who teaches at a school for the deaf finds out that her horribly disfigured, insane twin sister has escaped from the mental hospital. People close to her are soon murdered by a mysterious killer, but is it her sister, or is something going on that's even crazier than the previous sentence I typed?
I saw Madhouse earlier this year and knew I'd have to revisit it. One has to sift through a lot of mediocrity and crap in order to find an offbeat little gem such as this. The film has a foot firmly planted in two solid traditions: the American slasher movie, and the Italian giallo. Or, maybe it's more accurate to say that it's a giallo in slasher's clothing. Storywise, it bears a passing resemblance to Happy Birthday to Me, and has the look of your typical 80's slasher, but there is a pervasive weirdness and unpredictability that betrays the fact that it was directed by an Italian.
It might benefit from low expectations; you're expecting a run of the mill slasher, but then it throws in some unexpected nightmarishness, rich atmosphere, and some structural surprises. The killer is genuinely creepy and intimidating, and the movie is gutsy enough to go off on tangents, most memorably during a slow, tense cat-and-mouse sequence set in an empty apartment building. The one downside might be some unconvincing special effects (the killer uses an attack dog to finish off the victims, and more than a few obvious puppet dog-heads make an appearance), but in some cases it might add to the movie's strangeness. For instance, in one scene the killer is very obviously being played by a dummy, but I have absolutely no idea why, practically speaking, they couldn't use a real actor for the shot. It's like something out of a bad dream.