Madison County (2011)

A little advice to up and coming film makers: Please do not use the word "county" in your title. That is, unless you want me to be singing Springsteen's "Darlington County" for the entire length of your film. Thank you for your consideration. Moving forward to Madison County, no, there are no bridges here, well there are, but not they type old people fall in love under. No this Madison County is inhabited by your run of the mill inbred murderous southern serial killer and his family. Sound familiar? It should. There is very little original about Madison County, but lack of originality has never held the horror genre back in the past, so why should it now.

It feels like I've written this review a hundred times before, but here we go again. A group of random faceless teens/twenty somethings head off into the backwoods of some backwards part of the country under some ridiculous premise. This one has one of the guys writing a thesis paper based on a book by a guy who lives in this county. The book happens to be about some serial killer-esque murders that happened in said county. What could possible go wrong? Well, it's a horror film so, you know, a lot.

Normal horror movie cliches abound for the next hour and half or so. Kids get lost. Kids make terrible decisions. Bad guy shows up. Kids start dying. Kids start (finally) looking for help. Town turns out to be in on the killings. There you go, Madison County (and to be fair, most "lost in the woods slashers") in a few short sentences. But...

There is some pretty good stuff contained in those cliches. Visually the film looks amazing - especially when you consider the reported budget was a measly 70,000 dollars. Writer/Director Eric England certainly has the visual flair to have a long career as a director (he was only 22 when this film was made - again amazing if you stop and think about it). That being said, and benefit of the doubt, maybe there just wasn't enough time to fix the script, but there is a lot of spoken exposition. England seems to forgotten the first rule of making films, especially horror films : films are a visual medium. Show us. Don't tell us. Characters asking "How" and "Why" or stating "I'm going to do...." then doing it, simply ruin any sort of flow a film has. The second act is filled with these moments. It's not until the last 20 minutes or so the film sheds all these predilections and becomes an actual horror film.

I appreciate England's attempt to give the typical cookie cutter horror film characters some depth - believe me, my first horror script was 150 one page a minute...figure it out. The characters he creates certainly do have a bit more going for them than your typical horror film cannon fodder, but in the end it really doesn't matter because the decisions they make are so infuriatingly bad. Having your characters exist in a bubble is fine, but pretending like they have never seen a horror film is insulting to the characters and the audience. In the post-Scream era you can't get away with a character "going off on his own to take a piss" the audience loses interest. We know he's dead. It's just a question of how long before he bites it.

Like I said, Madison County is not the worst way to spend and hour and a half. It's not really scary. The twists are blatantly obvious. And the characters are borderline retarded. But if you can over look the lazy, or inexperienced writing and appreciate the films visual flair, there is enjoyment to be found. Madison County will not set the world on fire. However it does stand as a very good jumping off point for director Eric England. Here's looking forward to his next outing and watching him grow as an artist.

** stars out of *****


  1. I appreciate you taking the time to watch and review the film. I also appreciate the kind words toward my efforts on the film. I think you'll maybe enjoy my two upcoming films, ROADSIDE and CONTRACTED a little more. But I would also urge you to give Madison County a 2nd watch if you're up for it. There's a lot in there that I tried to put a slight spin on and make a little more fresh than what we're used to. It's a lot more self-aware than people give it credit for. Take this review for example:

    But regardless, I do appreciate you watching the film and giving your thoughts. Look forward to hearing your thoughts on Roadside:

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read the review and check out the site.

      I'm going to check out Madison County again. Hell, there are some things I could have missed. Like I said, there is a lot of good stuff in there. You got the film made, that's half the battle man. More power to you.

      I look forward to Roadside. It looks pretty damn cool.