“Mad Heidi” lives up to its name with a wildly fun, triumphantly insane grindhouse exploitation film that left me smiling from ear to ear.
Sometimes things just fall into your lap. It’s serendipitous, like when the boss asks, “Fancy reviewing a film that has Ninja Nuns in it?” The answer is always yes.
Mad Heidi is a twisted new spin on the children’s classic Heidi, which I remember watching growing up in the UK. I’m pretty sure there was no blood or decapitations in it, although I do remember one of the townsfolk getting a kick from a cow. Folks in the States may remember the film from the infamous Heidi Bowl, which probably also qualified the film as horror for football fans.
In Mad Heidi, Switzerland has decided that Fascism is the way forward for its inhabitants, and they have fallen under the control of the evilest cheese tyrant known to man. His mission? To rule the world. And nothing will stand in his way.
In a quaint village in the Swiss Alps, our heroine lives the best life with her family, which does its best to live with the land and avoid conflict.
Soon, the two worlds collide in an explosion of blood and cheese as Heidi steps forward to reclaim the Swiss nation from the jackboot of dairy tyranny.
So, what we have is 90-plus minutes of total and unashamed fun.
It is an absolute blast that recognizes what it is and what it needs to deliver. And it does so in spades as it runs through so many exploitation tropes, each one landing just long enough to make its mark without it being too serious or drawn out. It channels those tropes that made these films such a joy to watch in the first place and just goes for it.
Directed by Johannes Hartmann and Sandro Klopfstein (who co-write, along with Gregory D. Widmer and Trent Haaga), this film knows exactly where it wants to go and drags you along with it knowing that you should be in the same head space as them. And if you are not, why are you even here?
It wastes no time on drawn-out exposition, simply that Casper Van Dien is the President, a sort of cross between Hitler and a South American Military leader, and has no truck with anyone who doesn’t like cheese. He rules absolutely with an army that you will gleefully hope to see dead.
Van Dien is on fire in MAD HEIDI, turning in a performance that sees him chewing through everything in his path.
Admittedly his accent seems to bounce all over, but you can forgive him because he gives it his all, running from charming to insane and back again in a performance that he looks to be enjoying to the max. His propaganda videos that ask you to “Do Your Part” come across like Starship Troopers — making for a great referential wink to one of his most well-known roles.
Alice Lucy, in the title role, is excellent as the village girl who grows from a peaceful woman in love to a steely-eyed angel of death.
She similarly attacks her role with great gusto, with all the quips that would have been front and center in any mid-80s Arnie film. She truly excels during the fight scenes later, which are handled with enough blood to satisfy anyone.
Special mention has to go to Commandant Knorr, played by Max Rüdlinger, who manages to exude pure evil from every pore in his body and has a wild time doing it. He just nails the part with some excellent comic timing.
Mad Heidi checks about every possible box when it comes to exploitation tropes.
That they managed to squeeze so much into the run time is fantastic. You can play a pretty fun (and wildly dangerous) drinking game by playing Exploitation Trope Bingo. Keep an eye out for the following:
- Women in prison films with the sadistic warden and her henchwomen
- Ritual bullying by the jail top dogs
- Training montages involving a mysterious fighting woman and her Supernatural ninja nuns
- A family secret
- Character redemption (albeit briefly)
- A secret weapon to rule the world via Cheese
- Gladiator games
As much fun as Mad Heidi is, and it truly is a blast, I would say that the final act does suffer slightly, with the final boss moment feeling rushed. But this is me being slightly churlish when considering that this was a crowdfunded effort. What you are presented with on the screen is nothing short of miraculous in terms of how it looks.
There is no way I can do a balanced or objective review because I flat-out loved it. I know it’s poking fun at the Swiss, but only a little bit. And it all feels pretty good-natured. Did I mention death by triangular-shaped chocolate?
Miss this one at your own peril. It’s a near-perfect piece of trashtastically fun celluloid.