Mad Heidi is clearly a love letter to the exploitation films of the early 1970s but done in a modern yet low-budget style akin to the filmography and visual verve of Robert Rodriguez (Planet Terror) or Quentin Tarantino (Death Proof). “Mad Heidi” isn’t the first of these homages to those faux-exploitation films either, but what makes it distinct is a fair amount of budget.

The directorial team of Sandro Klopfstein and Johannes Hartmann first pitched this idea in the form of a grindhouse-like trailer. Then it raised the budget of the film to a respectable 2 million dollars through crowdfunding. This evokes the feeling of a genuinely independent production. Thus the movie finally getting a chance to be released for the wider audience to witness is a win for the passionate creators and the audience who effectively contributed to making this film happen. 

The story follows the textbook format of a revenge thriller, but where the movie truly succeeds is in the novelty of the world it sets itself in. In an alternate universe where President Meili (an overacting Casper Van Dien) is the ruler of a fascist regime led by Switzerland. Here the citizens are only fed cheese from the Meili corporation. Heidi lives in the valleys of the Alps with her grandfather. The regime murders her boyfriend for trading in illegal cheese, and Heidi vows to take revenge. 

Credit should be given to this movie for having selected a pretty unique bit and sticking by it throughout the whole narrative. The novelty of a world where cheese is almost a currency is a fascinating and fun wrinkle, and the organic joke of lactose-intolerant people being the enemies of the state becomes a pretty hilarious gag. But those are clever and organic gags that are few and far between.

High On Films in collaboration with Avanté
A still from Mad Heidi (2023).

The rest of the movie deals with exploitation movie cliches like cheese puns and experimental cheese, which turn unwitting participants into super zombie soldiers. Moreover, in the movie’s third act, Heidi trains with mystical ninja nuns (devotees of the goddess Helvetia) to become a fighter while wearing the dress of a shepherd girl and carrying the weapons of a medieval knight. It also has Casper Van Dien as President Meili overacting to the extreme, with his accent dropping in and out of his dialogue delivery with no rhyme or reason. There is also a scene of a man being tortured by being waterboarded with molten experimental cheese and then killed with a bar of Toblerone. It is innovative while also contributing to the overall silliness of the story. 

It cannot be denied that there is a genuine passion for this type of filmmaking and storytelling permeating through every frame, and the budget has been utilized appropriately. The production design is extensively above board, with a pretty liberal use of CGI complemented by practical effects and gallons of fake blood. This movie is also impressive for building out its world through a narrative sense rather than being a tight exploitation horror thriller.

As a result, the movie does take a while to get going. Thankfully, the movie doesn’t completely commit to the debasement of its protagonist during its prison segments, which are aping the subgenre of films dealing with “women in prison.” The nudity here isn’t as objectifying as one would expect from the original “exploitation” genre,  a far better alternative than completely removing that aspect and failing to pay homage, but also keeping in mind to update this form of film for a modern audience.

It also helps that the lead of the film, Alice Lucy, as the titular Heidi, is charismatic. She is given cheesy dialogue once she has fully transformed into the avenging angel “Mad Heidi” and asked to deliver it with verve resembling Arnold Schwarzenegger from “Commando,” but she doesn’t falter. And that is the secret to enjoying “Mad Heidi” the film as a whole: imbibe a beverage, relish in its silliness, and have some cheese if possible to fully delve into the cheesiness of this campy romp. I only wish the film was edited a bit quicker, with a bit more emphasis on the gory action bits of it all.

Read More: The 10 Best Horror Movies of 2022

Mad Heidi (2023) Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes
Mad Heidi (2023) Cast: Alice Lucy, Max Rüdlinger, Casper Van Dien
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Horror
Original Language: English
Director: Johannes Hartmann
Writer: Sandro Klopfstein, Sandro Klopfstein, Johannes Hartmann, Trent Haaga, Gregory D. Widmer
Release Date (Theaters): Jun 21, 2023  Limited
Release Date (Streaming): Dec 8, 2022
Runtime: 1h 32m
Distributor: Raven Banner Entertainment
Where to watch Mad Heidi

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