By SHAWN MACOMBER
If, as string theory would have us believe, every possible variation of an event exists in some parallel plane, then MAD HEIDI feels like the version of reality in which Lloyd Kaufman has a fateful rendezvous at a certain Manhattan Beach video store with a pre-Reservoir Dogs Quentin Tarantino and signs him to a Scientology-style billion-year contract with TROMA.
In this fantasy, MAD HEIDI (which opens with a billboard bearing the slogan “Strength Through Cheese”) quickly superimposes a Spaghetti Western-style revenge story on the classic Heidi films template, and by minute thirteen, is depicting melted cheese waterboarding of lactose intolerant subversives, would be approximately movie 483,999.
Oh, did we mention Casper Van Dien plays the curd-obsessed, tracksuit-clad future dictator of this dystopian Switzerland, one President Meili?
All of which is to say, this next-level bonkers attempt to put “Swissploitation” on the map (in the churn house?) lives up to the slogan on that billboard on a physical, philosophical and transcendental level.
MAD HEIDI, in fact, co-written and directed by the team of Johannes Hartmann and Sandro Klopfstein, begins with star-crossed lovers Heidi (Alice Lucy) and Goat Peter (Kal Matsena) in flagrante delicto. Alas, we soon learn Goat Peter has fallen in the crosshairs of the aforementioned President Meili for peddling contraband cheese. The very Mel Brooksian villain Kommandant Knorr (Max Rüdlinger) kills both Goat Peter and Heidi’s beloved grandfather, cackling maniacally so often he makes Frank Booth in Blue Velvet look like a responsible user of laughing gas. (Yes, I know the tank in Lynch’s film was supposedly filled with amyl nitrate, but MAD HEIDI doesn’t yield to our boring “string” timeline, so why should I?)
Anyway, Heidi goes to jail where she learns that her true bloodline has been obscured. In fact, she comes from a long line of cheese-fascist slayers. And, so, she accepts her losses and destiny and goes on a gory rampage at precisely the same time President Meili is unlocking the secret to genetically engineering cheese-driven berserkers.
If this all sounds a little one-note …well, such an assumption is not entirely off base. There’s so much scenery chewing here the cast will probably have to stick to brie for the next several years.
And yet, the concept is novel and so fully revels in its own referential absurdity, for example, the “I’m doing my part!” call back to Van Dien’s previous dystopian feature Starship Troopers, that one can’t help but surrender to it on some level.
Could it happen here?
A 2015 article from the Los Angeles Times with the unsubtle headline, “Cheese really is crack. Study reveals cheese is as addictive as drugs,” suggests yes.
“Cheese happens to be especially addictive because of an ingredient called casein, a protein found in all milk products,” columnist Jenn Harris writes. “During digestion, casein releases opiates called casomorphins.”
And what is President Meili, really, other than an addict in search of a sustained high?
Time to thank a vegan today for being the vanguard of tomorrow’s revolution – and a Heidi ready to bring samurai swordplay to the Swiss Alps.
See MAD HEIDI only on the official MAD HEIDI website.