Horror. Worldview. Faith.

Deranged – Review

Deranged – Review

Oct 4, 2012

reviewed by Hallo
directed by Alan Ormsby and Jeff Gillen, 1974
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Deranged is a mostly forgotten 1974 psychological horror film based on the life of legendary serial killer Ed Gein. The movie follows the life of Ezra Cobb (a great name) who must deal with the pending death of his Christian fundamentalist mother who has raised him to hate women. Soon after her death, Cobb becomes convinced she is still alive and subsequently digs up her corpse, places her back in her bedroom, and goes on with life as usual. Well, maybe not as usual because apparently the grief of her death followed by the delusion of her coming back to life made Ezra snap into, well, a deranged lunatic. He begins digging up other corpses to place in various parts of the house and when that no longer satisfies his needs, he goes looking for young women.

This little movie has several interesting tie-ins with iconic horror names. First, the movie was released in February of 1974, the same year the superior film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was released. Perhaps surprisingly, TCM was released in October of that year. Most who see Deranged will assume it heavily borrowed from TCM in much of its imagery and content, but both films were operating independently of the other and were released in the same year. It seems that 1974 was the year to begin the “Ed Gein” inspiration for serial killers in horror films. To be fair, Hitchcock started the “Gein” revolution in his 1960 classic Psycho, but since 1974 virtually every horror movie that chronicles the life of a serial killer cites Ed Gein as the influence behind the madness. Deranged is probably the movie among them all which most accurately depicts the historical Gein.

Second, the make-up effects and the corpses were created by a very young Tom Savini, a name that is synonymous with horror. Savini, of course, is famous for his work on the Dead trilogy and Friday the 13th. Although this is fairly primitive work compared to what we have become accustomed to from Savini, the effects are nevertheless effective and at times disturbing.

Third, Deranged was co-directed by Alan Ormsby, a name that is sadly unfamiliar to many horror fans. Ormsby was the lead actor and writer for the 1972 cult film Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things. Ormsby has had success outside of the horror genre as well, co-writing the script for The Substitute in 1996 which launched a successful series.

Fourth, this film is worth watching for the performance of Roberts Blossom as Ezra Cobb. Most folks will know Blossom for his creepy little role in Home Alone, but I always think of him as the preacher from the Sam Raimi directed The Quick and the Dead. Blossom not only looks like the historical Gein but perfectly captures the balance between a delicate, harmless, lonely man and a brutal, sadistic killer. Although TCM is a much better film than Deranged in many key areas, the only thing lacking from TCM is a true “Gein” character. Blossom nails it.

Deranged is a horror movie that must be watched and appreciated with its historical context in mind. Although the images and atmosphere of the film are still unsettling today, the content being presented to viewers in 1974 would have been breath-taking. The movie moves along slowly at times, something that is not a good thing with a running time of only 82 minutes. Yet, the realism of a mid-western boy and his mommy who know nothing of life but each other creates a chill that lasts from beginning to end. Deranged is a good movie for horror fans who can appreciate patiently waiting for the visual pay-off while enjoying a beautiful performance from a talented actor. It is recommended as an important and well-done period piece.

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