'Madhouse' is a visual treat for those who love horror flicks. It begins with a flashy, fleshy kaleidoscope of images that hooks you even during the intro; surreal, insane images that tease your madness.
Young Clark Stevens (Joshua Leonard) arrives at Cunningham Hall, a Mental Health Facility, for his internship. He is full of clever ideas to make the facility cleaner and more functional. Dr. Franks (the talented Lance Henrikson) doesn't receive Clark's ideas pleasantly. He informs Clark that things are fine just the way they are, and that Clark will be expected to do his job and nothing more.
Clark meets Dr. Morton (who reminded me of Henry Gibson but is played by Leslie Jordan), an absentminded, likeable guy who's been at Cunningham Hall for 25 years. There's Head Nurse Hendricks (Dendrie Taylor), who is a little like Nurse Ratchett in 'Cuckoos Nest'.
Showing Clark around the facility is pretty co-worker Sara (Jordan Ladd) who has an easygoing temperament and shrugs off Hendricks gruffness. When Sara's tour takes Clark to the basement, you, the viewer, are in for a treat. This is a spooky place. It's lockup time down here, where the "patients everyone wants to forget about" goes.
Right about the time Clark begins to witness some pretty unsavory events happening around Cunningham Hall, people begin to die. For the aficionado, there is a lovely, grisly tongue-severing scene not to be missed. The patient in Cell 44, down in the basement, begins to talk to Clark. He has some unsettling things to say, and seems to know an awful lot about the gruesome events upstairs. About the time Clark decides he's had enough, it's too late.
Lion's Gate Films has been putting out some very good films lately. 'Madhouse' was good enough for theater release; I don't know why it went straight to DVD, other than possible competition from 'Saw'. While the plot was predictable and not terribly unique, there are some nice twists involved. The atmosphere is excellent; phenomenally creepy and dark. The acting is good and the gore is satisfyingly present, with decent FX. Not as good as 'Saw', but far, far better than 'The Grudge' or its ilk.
Rent it first, but you may find yourself buying it. Enjoy!