Saturday, January 10, 2015

Tales from the Darkside: The Madness Room

Mediocre anthology episodes often have a twist that's easy to see a mile away. "The Madness Room" actually manages to contain two obvious surprises in its climactic moments, which is a disappointment because the premise for the episode is fairly interesting.

What if there was a room that drove its occupants mad? Would you be brave enough to to go inside? I'm reminded of the tone of a short story I read in high school about a writer who spends the night in a wax museum and becomes convinced the dummies are alive, especially the one of a notorious murderer (if anyone knows the name of the story, please tell me, and I'd appreciate it. My Google searches have been fruitless.).

Editor's note: An anonymous commentator below reveals the story is called "The Waxwork" and was written by A.M. Burrage. Thank you, dear reader.

If the episode had spent its entire episode in the eponymous room, then "The Madness Room" might have found a way to be tense and paranoid. Alas, the room in question only turns up at the end, following a Scooby Doo-style search through a mansion for it, and even then it only serves as the backdrop for a soap opera love triangle involving a rich old guy (Stuart Whitman), his much younger wife (Therese Pare), and her lover (Nick Benedict).

Spoiler territory here, it turns out the Madness Room is a scheme by the wife and lover to scare the old man into having a fatal heart attack, which he does when the wife, pretending to be under the influence of the Madness Room, fires a gun loaded with blanks at the lover. But then the joke's on them because having followed the directions of the Ouija they used to find the room, the criminal lovebirds drop the room key under a floorboard and our trapped in the room as it burns. Apparently the spirit of the house doesn't approve of their actions. Dum-dum-dum!

Ultimately, "The Madness Room" comes off as a poor-man's Tales from the Crypt, the wicked and the greedy receive their just desserts from a supernatural force. The room itself might have proved creepy had the characters spent a significant period of time inside it. I think the makers of this episode were trying to build a sense of foreboding - i.e. what's going to happen we finally get inside this so-called Madness Room - but the payoff is weak. Not an outright awful episode but a pedestrian one.

1 comment:

  1. The short story is "The Waxwork" by A M Burrage. It was adapted for the radio series The Price of Fear.

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