Home » How “Swissploitation” Splatter Comedy ‘Mad Heidi’ Hopes to Take a Bloody Axe to Distribution Models

How “Swissploitation” Splatter Comedy ‘Mad Heidi’ Hopes to Take a Bloody Axe to Distribution Models

Wild and elaborate deaths are part and parcel of genre movies, a blood-soaked world where filmmakers are often in competition to raise the splatter bar as high as possible. Speaking of bars, one film has surely deserves some kind of prize for this year’s most creative — and culturally appropriate — offing, a death in a which an entire triangular tube of Toblerone is hammered into a man’s mouth and out the other side. In another scene, a prisoner is waterboarded with steaming hot fondue (OK, the fondue is tipped over his eyes while his mouth is stuffed with croutons).

Introducing Mad Heidi, an insane action-adventure horror-comedy described as the “world’s first Swissploitation movie,” and without a doubt the most ridiculous take on the beloved pig-tailed, Alps-living orphan girl Johanna Spyri wrote about 140 years ago.

From first-time directors Johannes Hartmann and Sandro Klopfstein, Mad Heidi is set in a dystopian fairytale Switzerland under the fascist rule of a cheese industry tycoon (Starship Troopers’ Casper Van Dien) whose reign of terror involves hunting down the lactose intolerant. After her lover is brutally murdered for smuggling goat cheese into the country, young Heidi (Alice Lucy) comes down from the mountains and — following a stint in the slammer with a couple of hardened female bodybuilders — finds her true calling as an ax-wielding, Bavarian beer maid-clad martial arts badass who takes on the despot and his army. There’s a full platter of violence, gore, unnecessary nudity, cheese and an entire bank vault’s worth of Swiss stereotypes. 

The tongue-in-cheek and OTT plot, plus the aesthetics, put Mad Heidi firmly alongside 2012’s Nazis-on-the-moon sci-comedy Iron Sky (perhaps unsurprisingly, Iron Sky writer-director Timo Vuorensola exec produced Mad Heidi), and cult 2015 short Kung Fury. But there’s another major similarity, in that all three came to life via crowdfunding campaigns. 

As producer Valentin Greutert explains, the team behind the film — which was originally to be called Heidiland — realized a project like Mad Heidi wouldn’t attract the usual financing. “We thought, ‘We’re not going to get market money, we’re certainly not going to get any film fund to support the film,’ so I thought, ‘Let’s try to crowdfund it.’”

They shot a quick teaser in 2017 (one featuring the Toblerone skewering and fondue torture), which — understandably — got a lot of traction, raising around $300,000. But with a budget of around $3.3 million, there was a still major gap to fill. Greutert turned up the dial from small-fry funding in exchange for merchandise, to crowd investing in exchange for actual ownership of the film, teaming with a company in London called FilmChain that automatically sends money back to the beneficiary. A $500 per share minimum was set, which then translated to a percentage of the revenue (and crucially, not profit).

“From the first cent the film generates, people have a share in the revenue,” Greutert says. 

Mad Heidi is set for theatrical release in a number of major territories Nov. 24, and at AFM its North American distributor Raven Banner will help promote the movie to other potential buyers (Greutert says they don’t have an actual sales company, all part of cutting out the middle man). In a key twist, following a two-week exclusive theatrical window, on Dec. 8 Mad Heidi will be made available for streaming on its own website, MadHeidi.com, for two months, with all earnings from there going directly to the filmmakers (and their crowdfunded investors). Only after that do the usual VOD portals open up. This a strategy Greutert is imposing on any distributor who wants a piece of the (insane) action. “They’re playing along well — and even like it,” he notes. 

Without wanting to give anything away, at the end of Mad Heidi there’s a somewhat elaborate nod towards a sequel, and Greutart says there are still plenty of Swiss references left over to include. But Mad Heidi 2 all depends on the success of the first.

“If these investors get their money back, or even something like 80 percent of their money, I’ll have the next Mad Heidi financed in three months with this system,” he says. “Because then people will be keen to go for another one.”

This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter’s Nov. 2 daily issue at the American Film Market.

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Edward Wilson