Tuesday, 23 May 2023

Mad Heidi (2022)

While there has been a lot of fun delivered to genre movie fans by the past decade or so of film-makers emulating the grindhouse movie aesthetic, it has also given us some dross. A bad movie is not always improved by excessive gore effects and attempts to make it look old and damaged. 

Mad Heidi is advertised as the first Swissploitation movie, and it was realised with the help of a major crowdfunding campaign. If you know the classic tale of Heidi then you should enjoy it, but it’s also very accessible to those who somehow haven’t ever heard of the character. Sadly, it is also surprisingly boring.

Alice Lucy, an actress with a very small filmography you could check out in the space of an afternoon (not saying that as a criticism, it’s a note for anyone who wants to see her in other work), plays Heidi. Events conspire to make her a very angry Heidi, putting her on a path that will lead her to battle a dictator named President Meili (Casper Van Dien). Heavily-armed, skilled in a variety of combat styles, and with the potential to get oppressed people on her side, Heidi is a force to be reckoned with.

It’s hard to pin down quite why Mad Heidi doesn’t work for me. The tone is fairly amusing throughout, the onscreen world is set up quickly enough, and there are a number of cheese-based puns. In fact, a central part of the plot concerns weaponised cheese, which was ridiculous enough to make me smile. And, hey, a lot of Nazis get decimated. It just feels like there’s not enough in between the gags, gore gags or standard gags, and the film-makers rely on viewed being patient until they pull out the stops for a blood-soaked and gloopy finale, but that then feels like too little too late.

Lucy is fine in the lead role, as cute and light as Heidi should be, and then ready to cut up Nazis with a host of sharp weaponry. She’s a highlight, as is Van Dien, who overacts in a way that makes his character feel exactly as he should, a mad ruler struggling to keep the mask of politeness on his face as minor things start to become a major inconvenience for him. David Schofield is as welcome as ever, but sadly not onscreen for long, and Max Rüdlinger is an entertaining secondary villain. 

Directed by Johannes Hartmann and Sandro Klopfstein, who both also wrote the screenplay with Gregory D. Widmer and Trent Haaga (a man who has written some GREAT little movies), the overwhelming feeling by the time the end credits roll is one of wasted potential. The visuals often work well, the practical effects are enjoyably squishy and wet, and everyone involved gets into the spirit of the thing. It doesn’t come together though, and that is because of the script having too much randomness thrown in there, and all of it given equal weight by the directors. It’s like being cured of your sweet tooth by working in the chocolate factory and being told you can eat as much as you like. Sometimes less is more.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started watching Mad Heidi. I certainly didn’t expect to be bored though, and that was my mental state for a good chunk of the middle section. One or two highlights in the finale almost made up for that, but not quite. The game cast gain a lot of goodwill though. Just not enough for me to view it as anything more than just below average.


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