A definitive visual depiction of one man’s descent into psychosis!

by Randy Krinsky

Within Madness is the tragic tale of a personal trainer, Donovan Summers (Matt Story), who becomes infatuated with one of his clients, Brandy (Kaci Champion).  Donovan appears to be a relatively successful young man, seemingly lost in a world of his own perceptions; a world shared with the viewer in the form of a collection of video diaries.  As Donovan becomes more and more obsessed with the seemingly unobtainable Brandy, we are drawn into his obsession; into the grip of his psychosis.

Within Madness
Written & Directed by
J.M. Stelly
Matt Story, Kaci Champion, Jessica Dickory
Release Date
17 April 2015
Randy’s Grade: B

Written and directed by J.M. Stelly, Within Madness can initially be discarded as another clever abstract art film utilizing filmmaking aspects of the “found footage” style.  However, very quickly, it is apparent that this film is actually a gripping exposition of one man’s descent into madness, as told from his own point of view.   The story is loosely based on the true account of Ricardo López, the “Björk Stalker.”

Shot on a shoestring budget of only $5000, the film utilizes inspired cinematography, being shot in black and white, representing vintage 16mm.  This allows all the graininess, scratches, visual artifacts, and pops that are reminiscent of that old film stock; elements that add to the grittiness of the story.  The plot unfolds in a series of simple medium shots, with Donovan addressing the camera directly.  His diary entries are intercut with color frames depicting bloody scenes of bondage and S&M, understood as an introspective into the subconscious mind of Donovan.

In many parts of the film, the brilliant cinematography offers black masking brought in tight around the frame, indicating the isolation of our main character, even within his own mind.  He is tormented by his vision of the unobtainable.  He’s never good enough and finds fault in all that he is yet wants to be more.  He believes, though not whole-heartedly, that he possesses everything a woman would want in a man.  However, the viewer can see the one trait he is lacking is self-assurance.  His infatuation quickly turns into violent psychosis.  The sounds of the film add an additional layer to the madness being portrayed on screen.

Ominous music is heard throughout, interspersed with sounds of sighing, whimpering, crying and moaning.  Are these from the voices Donovan hears in his head?  These voices drive Donovan farther away from sanity, causing him to lash out and seek remedy in his fantasies; fantasies of delivering pleasure to women through pain.  This is a lesson he claims he learned as a child from his mother.  This torment from Donovan’s childhood seemingly catches up with him until he embraces it and becomes the evil within his madness.  J.M. Stelly offers us this definitive visual depiction of one man’s descent into psychosis.  It is not a depiction you are likely to forget.