Screamfest 2011 Movie Review: MADISON COUNTY

Written and Directed By – Eric England
Cast – Nick Principe, Ace Marrero, Colley Bailey, Natalie Scheetz, Joanna Sotomura, Matt Mercer

I am many things.  Two of those things, which I strive to continuously be is a patient man and a man of my word.  Both of those qualities were put to the test last night at Screamfest.  I had made it a point and a promise to attend the World Premiere of MADISON COUNTY but my patience was tested as the screening of WRONG TURN 4 (which I did not attend) got out late. So late, in fact, that MADISON COUNTY started an hour behind schedule.  Another of the many things I am are grumpy and impatient (yes I know I said I was patient above, shut it!).  Overdosing on red vines and Diet Pepsi, I put all my personalities in check and stayed in the theater.  I suppose I’m glad I did.

Madison County is about a group of college students that travel to a remote, mountain town called Madison County to interview the author of a tell-all book on the accounts of the grisly murders that happened in the town over two decades ago.

Upon their arrival, the author is no where to be found and the townspeople state that they’ve “not seen him in years.” They also deny that Damien Ewell, the notorious murderer, ever existed and that the murders never happened. As the kids start to dig around to get their own answers, they come to find that the stories, and Damien, maybe more real than the townspeople are letting on.

I will say right now, I wasn’t really expecting much from this movie besides what was already alluded to in the trailer – Young people go on a trip, get stuck in a crazy town full of crazy hillbilly town folk, young people make stupid decisions, young people die by the hand of some knife wielding freak wearing a pig head.

But see, I have this weird fascination with rednecks.  The white trash caricature that Rob Zombie seems to have down pat, for some reason, always lures me into the theater.  I can only equate it to the similar fear/fascination I have with carnival culture and clowns.  Not to mention, the pig head added a nice touch.  And sure, I went in expecting nothing new and I’m not sure the film really delivers anything really new to the slasher genre.  Mr. England even defended his film in a blog entry earlier this year, touching on the ‘nothing new’ thing I mentioned about.  That’s okay with really, as it seems there will always be an audience for this horror sub-genre, no matter how recycled things seem to become.

While the movie did keep my attention, with some surprisingly humorous dialog here and there, I found the witty dialog didn’t match the logic of these character’s decision making skills.  Without giving away too much here, just practically thinking, if I were to be receiving letters (not email) from someone I’ve never met, I don’t think I’d just up and drive out to find this person.  I mean, who’s to say the person writing the letters are who they say they are or that they’re in a safe state of mind?  That kind of irked me.  There are a handful of those choices in the film which I found distracting.  I’d also have preferred we didn’t need to wait through all the build up, roughly 40 min, before getting to some knife wielding pig faced action.  Also, why the pig head? Explanation, please!

Besides a few jump scares, I found MADISON COUNTY a bit lacking in dread.  There were many moments there that this film felt like an homage to films like TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and I did read on Eric England’s blog how he referenced that film as an influence in film school, so who knows?  Lacking an overall sense of dread for me, the movie is not short of creepy imagery or interesting backwoods town folk.  Hell, I was quite fond of the little old lady at the roadside diner the kids stop at.

I can nitpick all I want here about the movie, but the end result is I did have fun watching it.  I found some choices made with the writing unexpected and delightful.  MADISON COUNTY does not explore new territory for the slasher genre.  But the territory it covers, it covers in an entertaining way.  Yes, I’m difficult to please when it comes to horror films, but I suppose I forgot to mention that Eric England’s first full length horror film is the first film at this year’s Screamfest to completely sell out the theater.  That’s got to say something, right?

For more information about MADISON COUNTY, check out their website here. – Aaron Pruner

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  • Cris

    This movie is a really damn sucks ass !!!

  • Lyveharbor

    I think this was a generous critique of this movie. From a “slasher” fan standpoint… not enough blood… from a writer standpoint, not enough substance and the story itself has so many holes I spent more time wondering why things were either way too obvious or missing completely.. props to the cameras and editing though for making it visually entraping enough for me to finish. The sets and backings were on point for the mood ( let’s face it, this is a vital note missing in horror melodies these days). I just can’t help but feel like someone just wrote down a random bunch of parts of movies and taped them in order.

  • Clotho11x

    odd. i live in madison county indiana and we have a urban legend about pigman. hell that barn even looks familiar to a point. i just think its odd they put the setting in a remote mountain town. should’ve just stuck to the existing urban legend  as it already exists around here. would’ve made the movie better in my opinion.