20th Nov2019

‘The Madness Within’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Hunter G. Williams, Edin Gali, Tessa Farrell, Lily Tomlin, Katie Cleary, Tess Kartel, Arber Mehmeti, Devon Ogden, Nicole Sienna, Ariel Yasmine, Chris Damon, Michelle Hayden, Kristen Carpenter, Hal Alpert, Anya Benton | Written and Directed by Hunter G. Williams

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Where to begin with The Madness Within? How about right at the start. Seriously, this film has one of the strongest openings I’ve seen in ages. In fact the pre-credits sequence plays out almost like a trailer, showing us what type of man the protagonist is, what “interesting” things he gets up to: sex, drugs and something else, something darker. Something which you can tell right from the get-go is going to be dark and dangerous. And that’s even without so much as an inkling of plot. It’s a tremendous way to introduce a movie and it’s lead character – plus it raises a ton of questions about what ACTUAL madness The Madness Within is going to show us. A very clever way to hook in the audience and keep them watching!

The film tells the story of Russ Washington a successful businessman on top of the world who seems to have it all. He also has an unhealthy obsession with sex and drugs, and generally being a complete asshole. But his addictions, secrets, and faulty relationships send him spiralling down the rabbit hole, into the titular madness within…

The film has a great soundtrack which punctuates the on-screen action, really capturing the L.A. “scene” through the varied musical choices. As it should. Writer, director and star Hunter G. Williams grew up in California, spending his life on sets and experiencing the “Hollywood” lifestyle for himself – something which is reflected in The Madness Within, and not just through the music. In fact this entire film feels like a real reflection of the sleazy people, sleazy deals and general bullsh*t that [apparently] goes hand-in-hand with filmmaking and L.A. life.

The film does have it’s faults – writer/director Hunter G. Williams sometimes doesn’t seem to know how to transition between scenes, often relying on the same shot of the Universal City logo – as if to keep reasserting that this film is a story about L.A. and filmmaking – over and over. Honestly it gets a little bit too heavy-handed at times. Plus there’s are a few technical issues in terms of the audio but neither point detract from what is a brilliant feature film. These foibles can be forgiven even moreso when you discover that The Madness Within was beset by issues during and before production (for this film was borne out of the financial collapse of another movie), including Williams own health issues and cast members leaving the production due to massive delays. It’s remarkable not only that the film was finished at all, but that the finished product came out so superbly.

Besides the cast – of which Williams and his leading lady Terry Farrell are the highlights – the real star of this film are the visuals. Williams has a fantastic eye for stunning visuals, be it sun emblazoned buildings, views of L.A. or just shots of actress Farrell. Shots which look like a cross between a pop video and the kind of long, loving and fun camera views a totally in-love husband might take of his wife. But the beauty of Williams’ imagery is offset by the darkness of the story itself – and this film gets dark… and seedy! The juxtaposition between the visuals and the story is remarkable and definitely marks The Madness Within out among a myriad of other home entertainment releases and marks writer, director and star Hunter G. Williams as one to watch.

Usually when a film is written by, directed by and stars one person you can be guaranteed to be in for a struggle – after all, if someone can’t get work for someone else has to to make their own star vehicles audiences that usually means they’re not all that great at their job. However The Madness Within bucks that trend superbly and brings audiences one of the best insights into the inner workings of Hollywood, the balls you need to survive and what can happen when it all implodes… and how “faith”, be it in a higher being or in oneself, can bring you back from the brink. You could say this is The Wolf of Wall Street for the Hollywood crowd; and I enjoyed it just as much!

**** 4/5

The Madness Within is well worth tracking down when it releases on December 6th, courtesy of Midnight Releasing.

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