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[Special Feature] Psychology and Horror: ‘Madison County’. The Rise of Damien Ewell

Written By: Joseph Forsberg

If you’re there, you’re already dead!

There are an estimated 100 active serial killers in the United States; Madison County is the home of one of the most dangerous. Damien Ewell is pure evil; this beast inside the shell of a man has no conscience, and is driven by uncontrollable impulses and pure rage. He has the scent of the innocent and all they can do is wait to be stalked and killed one by one in a place where no one can hear their screams. Welcome to hell. Witness the rise of Damien Ewell!

Although the background on Damien is still unclear, the few details of his childhood can be used to explore the mind of this animalistic killer. Damien grew up with his mother and never had a consistent father figure. Statistics have shown that children who grow up in single parent homes are more likely to participate in deviant behavior. However, this upbringing by itself could not explain the horrific behavior buried deep inside this young boy. Damien’s mother found a boyfriend from out of town, and although the boyfriend might have been considered the man of the house, Damien did not see it that way. At the age of 11 years old Damien ran away and was found a few days later on the side of the road; he had been brutally beaten, tortured and horribly disfigured. This incident struck fear into the heart of Madison County; the town had never seen anything like this before. The events of that day would prove to be the last time outsiders were accepted into their small town. The boyfriend was suspected of this horrible crime and disappeared soon after. There is reason to believe that Damien got his first taste of blood and death on that very day.

Once Damien grew up, he was let off his leash and free to stalk and murder anyone who was seen as a threat to the town’s people. He could still taste of blood of his mother’s ex-boyfriend and craved more. Madison County is all Damien knows; his lack of social interaction in the town led him to become socially inadequate. Damien is unable to express his emotions and is unable to comprehend right from wrong. I believe Damien suffers from a pervasive developmental disorder. People with these disorders/disabilities experience problems with language, socialization, and cognition. Some of these symptoms are seen in autism, Asperger’s disorder, and Rett’s disorder. However, the circumstances surrounding Damien’s behavior does not qualify him to be diagnosed with one of those because they are disabilities and not disorders; meaning they are not developed by one’s environment. His disorder was developed throughout his life and he displays severe and extreme symptoms that cannot be related to a specific pervasive disorder.

Damien is a product of his environment; he was beaten halfway to hell and left for dead. Another reason for his speech problems could be his facial disfiguration along the jaw and near the vocal cords. In a small town full of hicks and farms, the only thing he felt he could relate to was a pig. The pig mask was not random; this is exactly how Damien sees himself. He killed a pig, sliced off its head, removed the innards and began to wear it as a mask; a mask that represents the beast rising from deep within. A fake mask would not suffice; Damien wanted to smell and taste the inside; he wanted to become that animal. It was only a matter of time before he got the scent of young victims waiting to be hunted down and killed. Although he is a mad dog, he is loyal to his town, almost as if they own and control him. Because he trusts no one but his “family” I believe he displays symptoms of a paranoid personality; everyone outside of Madison County is the enemy and bring nothing but horrible flashbacks of Damien’s brutal beating.

When it comes to his communication skills, his social inadequacies are clearly displayed while he is chasing Brooke (Joanna Sotomura) and Jenna (Natalie Scheetz) through the woods; he can be heard breathing very heavily and growling. When he stops and attempts to get their scent, his distinct growling shows his frustration and hunger. You can hear him sniff while he moves around the area where Jenna and Brooke are hiding. This is the scene that truly shows his animalistic character and personality. His attack on Jenna shows him trying to imitate her screams. At the same time, his voice lets out a high-pitched squeal, as if he is trying to taunt her. He immediately chops into Jenna’s back with an axe as if he is carving up dinner. The noises he makes are almost similar to that of an animal that is tearing food up in its mouth while violently shaking its head back and forth. The blood was dripping from the axe like it would be from the jowls of a wild animal.

When Damien steps into the woods and begins to hunt for his prey, he has no idea who he is after or anything about them. He does not care about their hopes and dreams, goals for the future, or if they have a family. Damien sees his victims as worthless objects; they do not deserve any type of special treatment or human considerations.


Eric England (writer, director)

One of the things that interested me about you doing this [writing Psychology&Horror] is that you saw an 80 minute movie and took the initiative to dig deeper and dive into the back story and wonder what was going on. Not everyone does that. We live in a society where people just take everything at face value and Madison County is supposed to be the opposite of that. On the surface, it still looks very familiar; there are still kids in the woods with a killer [Friday the 13th], but in the details it is different. With Damien in Madison County I wanted to take the scenario of a killer and do it a different way; make it more methodical, make the insanity more intimate and emotional. Eventually I am going to explain why he is that way and what separates him even more from your typical killer. Madison County is a much bigger story than we made. There is definitely a lot of history laid out and I don’t think people are going to see it coming. It is going to be done in a unique way. It is going to dive into psychology, not only in regards to Damien, but the people behind him and why he does what he does. It is going to be much deeper than what you saw in the movie. It is going to play on who Damien is and what his place is in Madison County.“-Eric England

Ace Marrero (Kyle)

This movie was made by fans for fans. Eric is a great director and got into this because of his love for the genre. One of the things people complain about is that the story is slow and the first kill didn’t happen until 40 minutes in. It was our job to support what he wanted and tell the best story possible. In telling this story, Eric was not looking for blood and guts or gore porn. Eric liked the esthetic of the original chainsaw massacre, but he also loved what the new one did, so we kind of went that way to pay homage to certain things, but at the same time tell his version of the story; tell it the way he could, using the tools he had. One of the first options we had was to either film at night or during the day. Eric and I were both against shooting at night. It is easy to scare people at night, but shooting during the day adds to the story; it explains why we chose to shoot in that particular area in Arkansas. The town was reflective of the eerie setting; everything was beautiful, yet had this contrast of these dark, horrific things going on.“-Ace Marrero.

Natalie Scheetz (Jenna)

I definitely think a person is a product of their environment. I think what people experience, especially when they are children growing up in their formative years, completely shapes who they are as a person. Any sort of traumatic experience someone has when they are growing up can really affect them. I think that combined with a town like Madison County affected Damien. The fact that the town is so secluded is creepy from an outsiders perspective. It seems to foster a very sheltered life and that combined with having to endure something traumatic growing up, I can definitely see how that can create someone disturbed enough to be capable of committing these crimes. The town and everyone within it seem to reinforce each other; the town itself is covering for his crimes so he might not necessarily see his actions as wrong. There are no consequences; it is all swept under the rug. From his point of view, we could almost be sympathetic to his character because by the way he was raised, it really doesn’t seem like he understands right from wrong. Maybe he thinks he’s protecting the town’s people.“-Natalie

Madison County is available now on Netflix Instant stream. Look for Eric England’s new movie Roadside set to premiere March 2nd.

“Psychology&Horror: Inside the Minds of Cinemas Most Prolific Psychopaths” is currently in the process of being written. The full Madison County segment can be read in its entirety once the book is released.

All diagnosis are for the specific purpose of relating horror to real life; in no way does this represent anyone that suffers from borderline personality disorder.

About the Author: I am currently going to school for Forensic Psychology; I am finishing up my Bachelor’s Degree and plan on continuing my education until I receive my Doctorate. Although I am still in school, I spend hours a week studying human behavior and psychological profiling; my main focus is on sexual homicide but study all types of murder. I do not currently work in law enforcement or around people suffering from personality disorders; this psychological profile on ‘The Collector’ is based on years of research, school, and books written by retired FBI Profilers. – Joseph Forsberg




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