Thursday, February 16, 2017

Deranged (1974)


Jeff Gillen
Alan Ormsby

WRITER: Alan Ormsby


Roberts Blossom
Cosette Lee
Leslie Carlson
Arlene Gillen
Marian Waldman
Pat Orr
Micki Moore
Robert Warner
Marcia Diamond


Deranged is based on serial killer Ed Gein. Ezra Cobb is a middle-aged farmer who lives in a rural farmhouse with his elderly mother. When his elderly mother passes away, he decides to dig up her corpse and bring her home. Ma Cobb speaks to him even in death. Ezra starts to go on dates with women in hopes of killing them and collecting their skin to put his mother back together again.

Growing up, I was always extremely fascinated with real crime and serial killers. I still watch the Crime Investigation Channel almost daily and read a lot of stuff about the dark side of human nature. It could appear weird to an outsider, but for me, I'm very fascinated with it all. So any horror or genre movie that deals with or relates to serial killers, I'm always very excited to watch the films. I'll usually be there with bells on. Deranged which is also known as Confessions Of A Necrophile sounded right up my alley, but I wasn't sure this would be a slasher.

Ed Gein is pretty infamous. He's one of those serial killers who is up there with Jack The Ripper, Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer. He was thought to be a necrophiliac and created keepsakes around his house by skinning women. He was seriously disturbed, and a lot of movies used him as a basis for their villains. I think the most famous of those films would be Psycho and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Deranged was one I had never heard of personally but was excited to see how different it would be from those two films mentioned.

Deranged is one strange little movie. The movie is shot like a faux-documentary or training video. At moments, all the way through this film, we have this narrator step into the frame, and the actors pause while he gives us exposition. It was very jarring and odd to have a film that deals with a horribly twisted serial killer who is constantly interrupted by this narrator. At times, I felt like it really messed with the flow of the story and the pacing of the film. This creative decision feels very misguided to me. It's probably my least favourite element in Deranged.

For a movie, that deals heavily with a serial killer who murders women and teenage girls, goes grave robbing and even skins a corpse, I think Deranged has a heavy dose of dark comedy injected right into the core of it. There are moments where the movie swings between serious horror and black comedy. The tone of this feels very uneven at times. This may fall back on the narrator popping into frame or the fact that Ezra Cobb does lay down a joke or three. A scene where he openly admits to murder and having the victim at his house to his neighbour was one of the comedic moments that landed for me. The rest were hit and miss for me.

Where Deranged works for me is that when it's taking the horror elements seriously, it's a pretty messed up film. The movie is never really over the top with its displays of carnage, but there are scenes that made me feel thoroughly uncomfortable. A scene where we see Ezra Cobb sawing into a corpse's skull while he scoops out her brains is some extremely realistic gore and makeup effects from Tom Savini. This is the goriest part of the movie, but there is a lot of violence towards women that will likely disturb some more sensitive viewers.

I think out of all the movies that deal with the subject of Ed Gein, I believe Deranged may be the most accurate depiction of his crimes yet. Yes, the names have all been changed, but a lot of the things that take place in the film are things that he was said to have done. I really found myself enjoying this as a serial killer tale. As a slasher, I don't think the film is very successful, but this works when being a rather low budget almost video nasty type of film. Weird to think this movie suddenly disappeared after it was released in 1974 and a copy was found in 1990.

Regarding tension and suspense, I think Deranged has a few scenes that worked for me. A scene where a bartender is chased around a house and finds Ed Gein dressed as a woman covered in skin is effective as is the final moments where a teenage girl is shot in the head but survives and is hunted through the snowy wilderness. Here the scene ends pretty horrifically and is quite unnerving. The movie won't make you jump out of your seat but is intense enough at times to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Lastly, the acting was great. Roberts Blossom as Ezra Cobb is exceptionally creepy. His scenes are the most uncomfortable, and that comes down to his leering stares at all the women or his nervous dialogue when he's trying to pick up women so he can murder them. I was thoroughly grossed out during one sexual attack scene. Micki Moore is also fantastic as a gorgeous bartender who falls victim to Ezra Cobb during the film. I thought her performance was realistic and wanted to see her survive the ordeal. Overall, a solid cast.



- An old woman dies. Bleeding from the nose is shown.
- A scene of grave-robbing is shown.
- A woman's skull is sawn open.
- Brains are removed from an old woman's skull.
- A woman is shot in the head twice.
- A woman is hung up and gutted like a pig.
- A teenage girl gets her leg caught in a bear trap.
- A teenage girl is shot in the head.
- Rotting female corpses are shown.
- A woman's head is bashed in.
- A woman's skull is displayed on a silver platter tray.

Deranged is a low-budget take on the Ed Gein story. It's probably the closest take on the serial killer that I've witnessed yet. This movie feels like it would be right at home as a video nasty sort of mid-seventies type of horror shocker. The film has some solid gore work early on, some horrible scenes involving violence against women which will likely disturb, and a few very excellent and creepy performances. Where it falls short for me is that it has this weird documentary and narrator sort of feel to it that upsets the flow of the film. Some uneven comedy also throws the tone out of whack at some points. Still worth a watch if you can find it.

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