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FILM REVIEW: Mad Heidi (2023)

Mad Heidi - New Release Review

Director: Johannes Hartmann, Sandro Klopfstein

Starring: Alice Lucy, Casper Van Dien, Max Rüdlinger, David Schofield

Written by: Sandro Klopfstein, Johannes Hartmann, Gregory D. Widmer

Produced by: Valentin Greutert,

Cinematography by: Eric Lehner

Original Score by: Mario Batkovic


Swiss mountain girl Heidi is abducted by brutal government troops and must defend herself and fight a war against a cheese-fueled machinery of hate.


The exploitation genre has often been romanticised over the last two decades. Filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth and Edgar Wright are very vocal in interviews and podcasts about recommending obscure 60’s & 70’s grindhouse era films, pulling from directors like Argento, Fulci and Bava etc. Of course, the deeper you go into any genre, you’re going to discover sub-genres; the exploitation genre has a wide range of sub genres, from Carsploitation to Ozploitation. Women in prison movies, rape revenge movie, Blackploitation to Naziploitation. X rated films showing the dark side of cinema. For every 10 great exploitation films, there’s 100 more terrible ones behind it. The nature of exploitation being made cheap and quick meant that they weren’t often masterpieces. Years later when they’re rediscovered, they are considered ‘So bad, it’s good’, but most of the time, they were just straight up bad.

When Tarantino and Rodriguez released the ‘Grindhouse’ double bill, their love letter to the genre, back in 2007, a market opened for newly made films in the style of the old exploitation genre. Scratched up film stock, bad over the top acting, boobs, blood and beasts. Films so hot, they’d literally burn up the film they were printed on. This unfortunately opened the floodgate for low budget directors to make their own sleazy horror movies again, and when they were received as bad, they’d say ‘Well, that’s the way I made it. It’s meant to be so bad, it’s good.’ Films like Neil Marshall’s ‘Doomsday’, ‘Nude Nuns with Big Guns’ and even Northern Ireland’s own ‘Battle of the Bone’.

This brings me to ‘Mad Heidi’, (a new spin on the classic tale of ‘Heidi’) which is playing off the tropes of Naziploitation films like ‘Ilsa’, ‘She Wolf of the S.S’ and ‘The Big Dollhouse’. Unfortunately, the directors Johannes Hartmann and Sandro Klopfstein, can’t seem to capture what makes those movies so unique. With ‘Mad Heidi’, it almost seems like they were inspired by the fake trailers made for 2007’s ‘Grindhouse’, rather than the films that were the basis behind the inspiration for said fake trailers. Each scene feels too short, often setting up a problem for the character and resolving it in the same scene. Many shots feel like they’re just setups for shots to use in the trailer. It’s desperately trying to be like ‘Inglourious Basterds’, but doesn’t quite have the talent in any department to achieve their goal. Some actors are playing it super straight, while others come off as cartoon characters (I’m looking at you Casper Van Dien.)

The titular Mad Heidi, played by Alice Lucy, is genuinely great in the film, even though she’s given nothing from the script. Lucy plays the strong hero well, carrying the whole film can’t be easy for a newcomer, but Alice Lucy does it while kicking ass and carrying a giant axe. Max Rüdlinger is also fantastic as the villainous Kommandant Knorr; he has such a great character actor face and is able to play a bad bastard with just a look.

The biggest problem with the film is the script. The story consists of Van Dien’s character wanting to control the world by forcing people to only eat his brand of cheese. If you don’t like his cheese or you’re lactose intolerant, you’re sentenced to death. Then by the third act, we discover that he’s made a cheese that turns people into zombie slaves. Need I say more? The dialogue is 70% cheese-based puns. A well-placed pun can be clever, but these puns are so obvious and painful that even Wallace and Gromit wouldn’t enjoy them. This film was also crowdfunded, and I can see the appeal to fans of the genre, but I'd honestly be disappointed if I'd paid good money towards this.

I’m sure they wanted this to be gouda, but the whole film stinks like some rotten old brie...Cheesus Christ, they’ve got me doing it now.

Verdict: ⭐️⭐️½

- Adam Neeson

'Mad Heidi' will open on screens across the United States from Fathom Events on 21st June. The film will also be available across Canada at select Cineplex locations.

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