Tag Archives: Casper Van Dien

Swiss Cheese

Mad Heidi

by Hope Madden

Hard core, low budget genre films tend to seem cheesy: women in prison, boobs, torture, splatter, training montages, katanas. Filmmakers Johannes Hartmann and Sandro Klopfstein embrace the budget constraints, embrace the genre, and absolutely celebrate the cheese with their opus, Mad Heidi.

Their genre sendup returns to Heidi, that cheery Swiss Alps legend, along with her grandfather and Peter the goat herder. But not all is well in Switzerland. The country’s Very Swiss Leader (played with relish by Casper Van Dien) is something out of a bad 1970s exploitation film. Swissploitation, if you will.

So, Heidi (Alice Lucy) must suffer, find her strength, and reclaim her country for the Swiss and the lactose intolerant.

One of the benefits of making a spoof is that no one can hold your ludicrous plot against you. Indeed, the more ludicrous, the spoofier. The plot – what there is of one – exists to move Heidi and her story from one recognizable genre beat to the next. The filmmakers clearly possess a sincere fondness for grindhouse action. Their film never feels mean-spirited, and more importantly, it never feels lazy. Instead, Mad Heidi delivers sometimes inspired set pieces, gags and jokes that land harder if you’re in on them.

It’s also sometimes shockingly beautifully shot.

While the filmmakers are obviously having fun with genre sensibilities, they also showcase genuine cinematic craftsmanship with a clearly low budget. The movie looks great. Gore effects strike the ideal over-the-top practical vibe. Hartman and Klopfstein make their chosen genre’s ludicrous nature, plot holes and unnatural pauses, cartoonish characters, and bloodlust work for them.

Van Dien – so good earlier this year in Daughter and mainly known for maybe the world’s greatest action spoof, Starship Troopers – delivers fun, exaggerated comic timing. In fact, the whole cast bad-acts quite well. Still, even at just 92 minutes, the film feels more than a little bloated around the midsection.

It can’t hurt to watch it, though, assuming you’re in the mood for an awful lot of goopy, sloppy, sticky – dare I say cheesy – action and you’re able to fully unplug your brain.

Father Knows Best


by Rachel Willis

Father. Mother. Son. Daughter.

It’s the quintessential nuclear family. In writer/director Corey Deshon’s feature debut, the nuclear family develops into a taut examination of manipulation and control.

Trying to fill a family void, Father (Casper Van Dien) holds a young woman captive in the garage. He informs her that she (Vivien Ngô) will henceforth be known alternately as Daughter or Sister.

Revealing anything more would ruin the conflict that develops around Daughter’s anticipation of what might happen next. 

Van Dien unsettles as the patriarch of this family. His is one of the most disturbing portrayals in the film, as there’s an undercurrent of rage beneath the façade of loving dad. We know from the outset what he is capable of, but that doesn’t make watching any easier to bear.

And just what are Mother (Elyse Dinh) and Brother/Son (Ian Alexander) willing to do to preserve this facsimile of a “family?” When it comes to Daughter/Sister, each family member seems eager to manipulate others to suit their current needs.

As details are teased forth, there is clearly more to this family than what first appears. Father is the one in control, but how much of a hold does he have on this tenuous situation?

Setting the film almost entirely within the confines of the family home fosters a sense of isolation. Deshon creates constant confusion as to what exactly is going on outside. We’re given just enough information to keep us off-balance, a narrative decision that works brilliantly.

For the bulk of the film’s 95-minute runtime, the tension is unrelenting. Though one scene drags a bit, it’s brief so it doesn’t so much alleviate the tension as interrupt it.

For a first feature, this is a marvelously crafted work of psychological horror. Personally, I’m eager to see what Deshon does next.