James Jay Edwards

The Madness Inside Me Is Technically Stunning, but Stumbles Over Its Story

(The Madness Inside Me, courtesy Gravitas Ventures)

James Jay Edwards reviews The Madness Inside Me, a horror-thriller film written and directed by Matthew Berkowitz. (Gravitas Ventures

 

Just like in real life, people in movies deal with grief in different ways. Just recently, we saw a widower in Monuments manifest his grief into the spirit of his wife while he runs off with her remains and a widow in The Night House dig deep into her husband’s past to learn a few unsavory things. Now, perhaps most primally, we see a woman go out for revenge in The Madness Inside Me.

The Madness Inside Me is about a forensic psychologist named Madison (Merrin Dungey from Big Little Lies) who spends her days interviewing convicts and deciding whether to recommend them for parole or not. When her husband, Jeremy (Money Monster’s Anthony DeSando), is killed in a home invasion, her fascination with morbid crime takes over her life. She refuses to identify her husband’s killer, Francis (Devon Graye from 13 Sins), to the police, instead choosing to befriend and stalk him. Has she gone absolutely crazy, or has she just launched a cold and calculated plan for revenge?

 

(The Madness Inside Me, theatrical release poster, courtesy Gravitas Ventures)

And that’s the question at the center of The Madness Inside Me, and it’s one that writer/director Matthew Berkowitz (A Violent Man, Wild in Blue) never really answers. Or the answer may be a little of both—Madison’s self-destructive behavior in the wake of her loss is relatable, but it could be a bit of an excuse for a darker purpose. She’s a smart woman who has a background in deconstructing the criminal mind, and the shock of her husband’s death may have just pushed her into becoming a criminal herself.

The ambiguity in The Madness Inside Me doesn’t stop with Madison’s motives, though. There are a handful of aspects that are intriguing enough when first introduced but become frustrating loose ends when they are not completely fleshed out. Little plot points, such as Madison’s habit of taking pictures of strangers at night or a series of phantom flower deliveries that she receives, are maddeningly underdeveloped, even when they are partially resolved. There are glimpses of hope in a few places, subtle little things lost in the background that could be huge mindblowers if they were shown a little longer or emphasized a little more. The difference between a mediocre film and a great one is just within reach.

 

(The Madness Inside Me, courtesy Gravitas Ventures)

The plot of The Madness Inside Me is, in a word, unbelievable. Madison makes so many poor choices, yet circumstances still line up for her in ways that make the audience shake its collective head. The whole movie is built on conveniences and contrivances, and while it tries to play them all off as twists and turns, that’s not how it comes across. It’s all got the vibe of a film school project that thinks it’s being clever, but every one of its classmates’ films has the same basic ideas.

From a technical standpoint, The Madness Inside Me also has that experimental film school vibe, but in a much better way. Cinematographer Mattia Polombi (Nina, The Second Sun) uses a slinky photographic style that almost makes the viewer feel like a stalker themselves. Berkowitz adds to the anxiety by using an almost square aspect ratio for the first chunk of the movie, only switching to widescreen when Madison finally starts conversing with Francis and her world opens up. And Peter G. Adams, known for providing the music to the speculative Kurt Cobain documentary Soaked in Bleach when the filmmakers couldn’t use Nirvana songs, turns in a swelling and pulsing electronic score that further ramps up the tension. The story may be improbable and unbelievable, but the sound and images in The Madness Inside Me are inventive and effective. So, in that regard, it’s worth seeing.

 

(The Madness Inside Me, courtesy Gravitas Ventures)

Matthew Berkowitz seems to be akin to a Rob Zombie or an M. Night Shyamalan. He knows how to make a good movie and can come up with a compelling story, he just may need a co-writer to supply a bit of polish to the plot. The Madness Inside Me is, for better or worse, what audiences have come to expect from low-budget independent filmmaking. There are some great ideas, but much of it is lost in the trite and typical storytelling. It’s a solid attempt, but the actual product doesn’t quite live up to the idea’s potential.

The Madness Inside Me is in select theaters and on digital platforms now.

 

 

Check out the podcast Eye On Horror for more with James Jay Edwards, and also features Jonathan Correia and Jacob Davison.

 

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