The Madman — Relentless angel of Death
The concept of the Madman is central to my play Maniac Lake (Scary Plays), which I like to describe as Deathtrap meets Friday the 13th. I expect that shortly after Carpenter’s Halloween, when the mad slasher film developed into a sub-genre in and of itself, the idea was ripped off, diluted, and rehashed probably as much if not more than any single trope in cinematic history.
I didn’t like the slasher movies when they first came out. I disapproved of them. But I’ve come to appreciate them as a modern morality play. A depiction of the blank-faced, unstoppable death that pursues us all, and eventually gets us all. It’s a way to sit in the dark, and rehearse your own eventual demise. It’s also a way to luxuriate in all mankind’s basest instincts involving women, violence, and fear. Plus, it’s like being on a rollercoaster ride, and great excuse to grab your date.
As a character, the Madman is so galvanizing, partly because he is unstoppable, driven, a character relentlessly pursuing his objective; and partly because he is so blank. He has no discerning characteristics, and so allow us to make of him what we will. Because he is a cypher, he becomes our own personal madman, containing whatever it is that we want to endow him with.
And there is something cathartic, in the style of greek tragedy, in watching all these good-looking, scantily clad, over-sexed teens stare their own madman in the face, and realize that their life has added up to nothing but a horrible, blood spattered end. We can watch this, and feel eternally relieved that it’s not us up there, wriggling on a grappling hook. This relief, this rebirth if you will, allows up to get on with our life, and tackle our (relatively) minor problems, with a blessed and newfound sense of hope, gratitude, and faith.
We summon up the madman to keep ourselves honest. He is death, death will come, but for this moment, we have life, glorious life. Just don’t go into the woods and have sex…