Theme Song: A bunch of violins and synths by Paul Zaza (A Christmas Story, Porky’s, My Bloody Valentine).
Interesting Dated References: Mocking or making jokes about Canada has become a pop culture mainstay for people who aren’t funny. These people are dolts. Aside from some difficult to navigate beer-buying policies, Canada is perfectly acceptable. In the 70s and 80s, Canada produced many great horror films (Deathdream, Black Christmas, My Bloody Valentine, Shivers, Rituals, Prom Night). If you see someone making jokes about Canada, remind them they should try harder to make new jokes and stop relying on unfunny thoughts they had in 1998.
Best Line: Really strong Canadian accents throughout. “Sore-ey,” uttered in the middle of someone begging for mercy, “a-pole-o-gize,” uttered during a moment of forgiveness. Granted they can’t help how they talk and, as someone living in Wisconsin, I shouldn’t throw stones, but it proved to be mildly distracting throughout.
Social Context: Sort of packaged to look like an anthology horror film, Mania: Episodes in Terror is more of a crime/thriller anthology. Based on the minute-long, fast-cut opening sequence, it’s safe to assume this was intended to be some type of ongoing television show. Each “episode” takes a focus on a subject that was important in the 80s: avoiding people who need help because they might kill you, someone kidnapping your child, people breaking into your house, and sexual guilt after seeing a prostitute. Effectively produced in Canada by a slew of Canadians, Mania: Episodes in Terror is unfairly forgotten when it comes to anthology movies.
Summary: After the music video intro, we get into our first segment, “The Good Samaritan.” A drunk businessman named Dan helps a woman named Julie who is being accosted in the subway, only to find out once they get back to his house that she is a psychopathic killer.
Aside from a few logic jumps (the man originally assaulting Julie is totally incapacitated by the spray from a fire extinguisher, Dan and Julie sit and have drinks in his house while the original attacker stands outside the house with a knife) the segment is well paced and acted.
The next segment is based on another urban legend I remember hearing about when growing up. A stay-at-home mom, after sending her kids off to school, receives a phone call stating her children have been kidnapped. After draining her bank account and exchanging money, the children arrive home and the mother realizes they were in school the whole time.
This segment is well acted, well paced, and aside from some forced sexual tension with the kidnapper, it manages to be effective. Why am I being so complimentary? Because every time I think I’m reviewing a forgotten movie nobody cares about I get a message from someone involved with the movie telling me how I’m wrong and I’m an asshole. These people are correct. I’m a mentally-ill sociopath who maintains this website for a non-existent audience. I’m just going to give boring plot summaries and not expound on anything at all. The world sucks now. If you want my real thoughts and opinions on a movie, we can go back to fucking mailing lists or private message boards.
The next segment, “The Intruder,” deals with white paranoia and home invasion. Jack is deathly afraid of dogs, so his wife insists they get a dog. (A bunch of break-ins keep happening in their neighborhood.) Jack decides he’s going to poison the dog. The dog won’t eat the poison, but the next day upon arriving home from his office job where he can openly drink Scotch, he finds the dog is barely breathing.
The vet calls him that night to say the dog was choking on human fingers. Just then a fingerless burglar creepily slinks out of the closet and shoots Jack.
The final segment, “See No Evil,” is probably the least engaging. This guy, Steve, gives the gift of post-coitus earrings to a prostitute. Then he watches her get murdered outside his apartment window. After sexual guilt and paranoia, Steve realizes the murderer is attempting to frame him by placing evidence in his apartment. After finding the murder weapon in his house, the police arrest him. At his trial he realizes the judge is the guy he saw murdering the prostitute. You know, because taking a murder rap for killing a prostitute is much better than admitting to your wife you had sex with a prostitute whose murder you then inadvertently witnessed.
– All segments were written by John Sheppard who also wrote American Nightmare, another Canadian production.
– Paul Lynch (Prom Night, Humongous) directed two segments. Sheppard handled the other two.
– There is a much better review found here. I’m not sure what home video version they viewed but the segments are listed in reverse order from my tape.
– This will be my last Betamax review and I hereby declare this site finished.
Poster and Box Art: Since Mania: Episodes in Terror appears to be a direct-to-video release, there’s really only the one video cover (seen above), which has a scratchy, red horror type treatment. Bonus points to Vista Home Video for making their logo almost as big as the movie title.
Availability: Used VHS on eBay.