“Revenge, the sweetest morsel to the mouth that ever was cooked in Hell”
-Sir Walter Scott
Directed by Matthew Berkowitz
Starring Merrin Dungey, Devon Graye and Jennifer Gelfer
Matthew Berkowitz’s “The Madness Inside Me” takes the clarity of the need for revenge and twists it into a sexually-charged thriller of self-discovery and psychological manipulation.
Madison (an extremely good Merrin Dungey) is almost overly dedicated to her job. A Forensic Psychologist, Madison sometimes goes too deep into the minds of the case studies she takes on. In his short opening scenes, her husband’s hints that he notices Madison may need to dial back her focus a bit.
It could be said that she might have too morbid a fascination with the darkness inside these killers, specifically Eddie (Scotty Tovar), a man convicted of killing his own father. Madison wants to help him and see the humanity that may exist, buried under the violent act he committed against his family.
After a dinner with friends, Madison and her husband settle in for a peaceful slumber. In the middle of the night, the sounds of a struggle awaken Madison and she finds her husband fighting with an intruder. She is hurt but her husband is murdered, yet she gets to see the face of the killer before he escapes.
When the police find their man, Francis (a chilling Devon Graye), Madison testifies that he is not the man who killed her husband, although she knows very well that he is.
She has something else in mind.
As her sleepless nights and suffocating solitude in the apartment she once shared with her soul mate become overwhelming, Madison finds a perverse thrill in stalking Francis. This is an obsession she was already curating by following and photographing random strangers, dipping her toes into their private lives. A hint to the madness that swims inside her. For Madison, there is a perverse thrill and sexual payoff to embracing it.
The quest that begins as revenge but morphs quickly into a mutual mind-fuck of erotic role play and manipulation, as Madison begins to find herself through this dangerous sexual and self-reawakening.
This might be difficult for many to grasp. Berkowitz’s ambitious screenplay does not ask us to understand Madison’s actions, nor does he want us to pass judgement on her character.
Perhaps it is the thrill of the hunt or the mind game manipulation she plays with her husband’s murderer. Maybe the thrill of having the upper hand on someone’s life has always been inside her. Or was it born of her profession that forced her to get too deep into the criminal mind.
We never find out the answers to these questions. Perhaps neither does Madison.
With Madison and Francis’s struggle for sexual and mental domination, Berkowitz’s film swims in territories previously explored by filmmakers as varied as Brian De Palma, Roman Polanski, David Cronenberg, and Luis Buñuel.
Mattia Palombi’s camera snakes through the dark streets of the city and exists amongst the shadows of the homes in which Madison invades. With an unobtrusive eye, Palombi makes use of the darkness which exists around and inside her.
Peter G. Adams has composed a film score that solidifies the mood and enhances the darker tones of the film’s screenplay, giving the film its creepy and ambient edge.
Matthew Berkowitz takes on a lot with this film and succeeds.
Well-directed and extremely well-written, “The Madness Inside Me” is an inventive and involving psychological character piece featuring a memorable performance from Marrin Dungay that holds it all together.