The hills are alive with the sound of bloodshed in the Swiss exploitation epic, Mad Heidi, a grindhouse reimagining of the beloved children’s storybook character.
The character of Heidi was created in 1880 by Swiss author Johanna Spyri. The story tells the heartwarming tale of a spirited orphan girl who lives in the Swiss Alps with her grandfather. This beloved Swiss character’s story has been retold countless times over the years, including once with Shirley Temple playing the titular role.
Now, over a century later, filmmakers Johannes Hartmann and Sandro Klopfstein bring their passion for grindhouse cinema to the classic tale of Heidi, transporting the beloved character to a dystopian future ruled by the oppressive regime of the sinister “Our Very Swiss Leader”, a ruthless dictator who wields complete dominion over all things fromage. With an army of cheese-addled super soldiers to enforce his strict control, he deploys savage tyranny and fondue torture against anyone who dares to defy his regime.
Determined to avenge her love and stand up against tyranny, Heidi emerges as the unlikeliest of rebels. She embarks on a wild quest for vengeance that will bring her toe-to-toe against fierce female prison inmates, cheese-fueled Swiss super-soldiers, ninja nuns, and more as she fights to take down the oppressive regime and restore freedom to Switzerland.
Will Heidi defeat “Our Very Swiss Leader” or will he achieve his dream of total dairy domination?
Mad Heidi’s absurd reimagining of the classic tale as a gory horror-comedy is the film’s greatest strength and an outrageous selling point.
The film dives headfirst into absurdity from the start, reimagining familiar characters and settings in an exaggerated fashion. An illegal cheese deal turned drug run, fondue as a torture device, and a propaganda film warning against lactose intolerance create an amusing dystopian version of Switzerland (and give a subtle nod to another film about a totalitarian society starring Casper Van Dien).
But following these first twenty minutes, the film hits a bit of a lull in the story when Heidi is sent to prison, where she is forced to wrestle some rather large Swedish women and is subjected to hellish treatment.
Though the story hits some lulls, the manic performance of Van Dien as the silly Swiss President Meili keeps the laughs going. His nonsensical speeches and tantrums poke fun at self-serving dictators and authoritarian regimes.
After Heidi’s escape from prison, Mad Heidi assaults you with a training montage that lingers for just a bit too long but, following this, the film resumes its full-force dedication to satire comedy, having Heidi begin her path of death and destruction that includes slicing a man in half and shoving an accordion down another’s throat. From here on out, Mad Heidi lives up to the blood-soaked film it advertises itself to be.
Where the film falters is in its numerous crude, adult-themed jokes, including alluding to the fact that Peter has an inappropriate relationship with his flock. There’s also a scene involving a sausage that didn’t need to be included in the film, as it only serves to ridicule a primary character who previously had been established as a vile individual.
As Heidi, Alice Lucy undergoes a startling transformation from a sweet orphan girl to a vengeance-seeking heroine that she plays with a perfect balance of earnestness and absurdity. She embraces the film’s over-the-top gore and action with glee, wielding axes without restraint as she hacks her way through any who stand against her mission. While fully embodying the grindhouse spirit, Lucy also brings heart to what could have been a cartoonish character amid such zaniness. She gives Heidi a sense of humanity and relatability even as events spiral into preposterousness. Whether swinging axes or marching through explosions, Lucy’s performance makes Heidi an unlikely yet welcome rebel leader in the fight to free Switzerland from the grip of “Our Very Swiss Leader.”
Casper Van Dien seems to fully embrace the silly and nonsensical nature of the Swiss President, gamely snarling and shouting absurd proclamations about cheese control and punishment. His over-the-top and buffoonish performance gives the film some of its most amusing moments. Van Dien captures the petulance and incompetence of dictators drunk on power but short on reason or leadership ability. For grindhouse fans, seeing a familiar B-movie star like Van Dien in such an outrageous role adds to the film’s offbeat entertainment value.
The satirical elements and bloody action make for an over-the-top comedic style that mostly works, even if some gags miss the mark or certain sections lag. Overall, while uneven, Mad Heidi delivers an absurd and gory good time for audiences looking for an unconventional take on a familiar tale. I would recommend this film to hardcore horror-comedy fans with a taste for the outrageous.
For those who want to experience the madness for themselves, Fathom Events, Raven Banner Releasing, and Swissploitation Films are excited to announce the premiere of Mad Heidi in theaters nationwide for a special one-night engagement on Wednesday, June 21 at 7:00 p.m. local time.
The film will also be available across Canada at select Cineplex locations.
Visit Fathom Events to pick up your tickets today.
I have come here to chew bubblegum and write horror, and I’m all out of bubblegum.
Editor at Horror Facts