Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Deranged (1974)

If Beauty's Only Skin Deep...Shed Some Skin

Ed Gein is one of the world’s most notorious serial killers. His gruesome acts shocked a nation and have been the inspiration for countless pop-culture icons such as Norman Bates, Leatherface, Buffalo Bill, and more. Funny thing is…Ed Gein isn’t really a serial killer. It could never be proven that Gein murdered more than 2 women (it takes three to reach SK status), but his grave robbing antics created a literal house of horrors including flayed skin suits, skin lampshades, a bowl made from human skull, skin chairs, and more. So it’s no doubt why most professionals say “fuck it” and let him have the title. With more and more straight-to-DVD releases about Ed Gein’s brutal crimes, I thought I’d take the chance to review a lesser-known title called Deranged that, while not as outrageous as Buffalo Bill’s dick-tucking antics or Leatherface’s pig-squealing buffoonery, belongs on the skin-crafted trophy shelf with them nonetheless.

The film opens (and is constantly interrupted) with this Jemaine Clement-lookin' narrator who warns us that this accurate portrayal is not for the faint of heart, blah blah blah. Yeah, I’m sure anyone paying to see a horror film in 1974 really needed another warning, what with all the fear marketing they induced back then. We meet Ezra Cobb (Roberts Blossom) who everyone conveniently calls “Ez” (you know, because it sounds like Ed). Keeping with Gein’s life, we’re also introduced to Ezra’s dying mother, a religious nut who thinks women are sin and all filled with syphilis and gonorrhea. With her passing, Ezra is alone and sad. The only people to keep him company are his neighbors. Being the nut that he is, Ezra only assumes his mother is sleeping and after a year’s time, digs up her body and brings it to her room which he has kept in immaculate condition. His only problem is that her body is a rotting mess. Ezra begins frequently grave robbing to supply his mother’s body with cleaner flesh in order to bring her back to her original appearance (believe me, it ain’t worth the trouble). After a while, his lust for flesh is too strong and grave robbing just won’t do the trick. This is when he decides to turn to killing humans.

Hey, Ma...why so blue?
Sadly, I feel i can’t really give the plot that great of a description. If you know the story of Ed Gein, you know this movie. I mean…he doesn’t begin killing until the last half of the film. However, I’ll go into why Deranged works.

For 1974, it’s well put together. It’s shot well enough, the acting is decent , and there are a few creepy moments; the best being Ezra dressed in a skin suit cranking an old record player. In terms of gore, there isn’t much to see except a lot of 70s ultra-red paint colored blood. If you get your hands on the German-Uncut DVD, it features a fairly grotesque scene of Ezra dismantling a severed head, starting from the eyeballs to de-braining the skull.

According to IMDB, this film was the most accurate portrayal of Gein’s story until 2000′s Ed Gein a.k.a In the Light of the Moon. However, Ezra Cobb actually murders 3 women in the film, but who am I to nitpick? I will admit though, his last victim is utterly gorgeous and has a rack to die for, so I’ll go ahead and take that extra kill.

Hang in there, beautiful
Interesting note: one of the film’s producers was Bob Clark who went uncredited. Both of the film’s directors also acted in Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, one of whom also co-directed the horror film Popcorn uncredited.

Oh, and how could I forget this?? The guy who plays Ezra Cobb is totally the guy who played Old Man Marley (the creepy old man who salted the snow) from Home Alone! Talk about typecasting.

3/5 Stars

1 comment:

  1. I so left this film out on my post on Dahmer vs. Gacy. I get what you are saying about Ed Gein not really being a serial killer, although he is for the most part classified as one, even though he was only tried for one murder and only confessed to two. Then again, a lot of people classify Charles Manson as one too and he didn't kill a single person. I think Gein is seen as a serial killer because of his collection of human bones, skulls and flesh, though they all were mainly from robbing graves. I do believe, however, that if he wasn't caught, he would have went on to commit more murders. I think he had the mind of a serial killer and was caught before he actually got started.