While it may be unthinkable to make a nazisploitation film in the year of our lord 2023, after watching Mad Heidi I learned, it’s not completely impossible.
Believe me, I’ve seen my fair share of crowdfunded films “grindhouse” throwbacks, and Mad Heidi, which hits theaters for one night only, this Wednesday, June 21 at 7:00 p.m thanks to Fathom Events, is one film that finally understands the assignment. I initially sat down to watch the film thanks to the trailer that ran before Shin Kamen Rider, which looked, actually, kind of terrible – but in the best way possible. When I was asked if I wanted to review the film before its Fathom engagement, I agreed because of THAT trailer. Shockingly, that had to be the worst representation of this film possible, because Mad Heidi was a hell of a good time and has set a new bar for the kind of genre that can come out of a crowdfunding campaign, that scratched every genre itch a fan like myself could have.
I mean it also doesn’t hurt that the film raised nearly 3 million either.
The film itself takes place in this bizarre modernized, yet timeless storybook world of Heidi, as our 20 something namesake (Alice Lucy), is falling hard for Goat Peter (Kel Matsena), portrayed here as a black man. Peter brings the blaxploitation and is a smooth talking, lederhosen wearing cheese dealer. Goat cheese, hence the name – for the lactose intolerant. The crux of the nazisploitation angle in Mad Heidi is that the Swiss government is portrayed as a bunch of lactose loving, goose steppers who are out to eradicate the country of the dairy intolerant. After Heidi’s man is killed for selling goat cheese, she’s out for revenge and quickly lands in jail. It’s there this revenge-o-matic then becomes a women in prison film, with all the tropes, and skin you’d expect. From there we jump down the list of ‘ploitations as Johannes Hartmann and Sandro Klopfstein clearly know their way around their sub-genres, checking the boxes and delivering the goods every time they switch gears.
It genuinely feels like every cent of that 3 million is on screen, from the picturesque cinematography of the Swiss Alps, to the very ample and well executed gore and action set pieces contained in the 95 minute runtime(!). While the production itself is better than most, Mad Heidi primarily works thanks to its lead Alice Lucy. She quickly, and believably, goes from bright eyed Heidi, to a hardened killer who flawlessly cycles through anguish, pathos and ultimately disgusted satisfaction whenever needed. She carries this craziness on her very capable shoulders opposite Casper Van Dien as the heavy, who is visibly having the time of his life as the leader of Switzerland, President Meili. While Lucy and Van Dien pull the lion-share, the rest of the cast here are more than able to support their leads, turning in some great moments, that act as flourishes to the overarching tale of Mad Heidi.
Mad Heidi REALLY surprised me, and after that trailer, that wasn’t an easy task. The film was a pure dose of old school sleaze, that from start to finish as its trying to hit every sub-genre, while continually upping the madness. Cheese zombies anyone? Kung-fu fighting nuns? Veterans on a rampage? This film has simply everything a genre fan could crave. I was just in disbelief of how well executed all these forays and twist and turns were embedded in the narrative. It felt like one of those 70s Italian mashups like Hell of the Living Dead, where you’ve got a cannibal film, that turns into a zombie film, that hits another four genres – just not as cheap. Instead, Mad Heidi is a buoyant and entertaining trip down 42nd Street reading all the marquees imaging the film that could combine all of them. That said, I only wish I could have experienced this in a packed theater for the first time, because it’s going to rip.