Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ten Days of Terror!: Deranged

Film: Deranged
Format: DVD fromNetFlix on laptop.

The NetFlix disc I watched yesterday with Motel Hell on it happened to be a double-sided disc. The flipside was a rare 1974 horror film called Deranged (sometimes called Deranged: Confessions of a Necrophile) that just happens to be on one of my horror lists. Lucky break, right? Without going into too much detail at the start here, let me just say that this is one of the most disturbing 82 minutes I’ve spent in front of a screen in a long time. This film is memorable in the same way that a film like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is memorable. That’s fitting, too, since this was released in the same year and is based even more strongly on the same source material. I mean it—this is one fucked up movie. It gets twisted early, and when it gets really twisted, it’s still got a half an hour to go.

We start by being introduced to Tom Sims (Leslie Carlson) who claims to be a journalist who covered the story that we are about to see, a story we are told is the unvarnished truth. Tom, acting as a narrator who frequently stands in the frame and talks directly to us introduces us to the Cobbs. Ezra Cobb (Roberts Blossom) is the somewhat childlike son of Ma Cobb (Cosette Lee). Ezra’s father dies when Ezra is 10. Following this, he and his mother become increasingly dependent on each other. Eventually, Ma gets sick and Ezra takes care of her until she dies.

Ezra gives up farming when his mother dies and convinces himself that his mother isn’t really dead. No, she’s just gone for a bit, and after about a year, he decides that the best option is to go dig her up from the cemetery and bring her home. Ma continues to “talk” to Ezra, and convinces him to go visit an old friend of hers (Marian Waldman), who is convinced that she can talk to her dead husband. What she really wants is a man, but Ma Cobb convinced Ezra that women were nothing but poison. And anyway, he needs parts to keep Ma from deteriorating, so he offs the friend, drags her home, and uses various parts of her to spruce up mom’s corpse.

However, Ezra is still a man and has at least a few more standard desires. He fixates on a woman named Mary Ransom (Micki Moore) and, after waiting patiently for a time, slits her tires one night and offers to help when she discovers it. And that’s when the insanity begins—he takes her to his house where Mary discovers a true nightmare—the corpses of Ezra’s mother, friend, and a few other bodies dug up from the cemetery. Ezra has also taken to decorating his house with parts of bodies and has made a few musical instruments from bones and skin and the like. As with any good monster movie of this sort, Ezra is after love, but has no way to express it and horrifying desires beyond that.

Ah, but we can’t spend half an hour with Mary, can we? No. A film like this with only a couple of victims wouldn’t be enough, so there are naturally more of them.

I don’t know whether this is a positive or a negative, but Deranged honestly feels at least in part like a snuff film. I mentioned earlier that it’s from the same year as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and it feels very much like the same film. It has the same visual feel. It also feels like it’s a much more accurate version of the Ed Gein source material. It’s the kind of movie that made me want to shower after I watched it.

For all that, it’s a movie I’m really torn on. It’s not one I’ll watch again and not one I’d want to watch again. But for all of its zero budget and unknown actors (although Roberts Blossom had a career), it’s surprisingly well-made. It’s disturbing and creepy and awful in a lot of respects, but it’s also really well done, most of this coming from Roberts Blossom’s performance. It got to the point where I didn’t want to watch it anymore, but I did get through all the way to the end.

But I do feel like I need a shower.

Why to watch Deranged: Of all of the movies based on the life of Ed Gein, it’s probably the closest to the truth.
Why not to watch: It’s disturbing like you wouldn’t believe.

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