Cult in the extreme the low budget Canadian-American horror Deranged released in 1974 is a gore filled joy ride based on the life of serial killer and serious mother lover Ed Gein.
The real crimes of Ed Gein which include murder, grave robbing and most disturbing of all making trophies and house hold items out of body parts and skin including a lampshade made from a human face and bowls made from skulls have been fictionalized many times most famously in Hitchcock’s Psycho and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Although changing the names of the characters with Ed Gein becoming Ezra Cobb Deranged (also known as Confessions of a Necrophile) attempts to be a closer fictionalised account of Gein’s life and crimes taking us all the way back to the final days with his dying mother a relationship so close, corrupted and cloistered it created a killer.
A religious fanatic who sheltered and brainwashed her son into hating all women Ma Cobb (Cosette Lee) looked after Ezra until the time came that he would have to look after her devoting his entire life to her care, a decision that lead to his entire world being torn apart after she passed away.
Getting more and more deluded and insane as the days went by after her death Ezra believes he hears his mother calling him to dig her up and bring her back to the house.
With a corpse in his home which he talks to as if it were alive Ezra carries on as normal however as his mother’s disgusting body slowly decays he seeks new ways to keep her looking as she did.
The answer is to exhume more bodies using the new dead flesh on his dear old mum bringing new friends into the house for her and him to talk to. But soon skinning and making things from dead people just won’t do for Ezra and he turns his attentions to the living as prey for his dark urges and desires.
Opening with a theatrical and interesting direct to camera narration from a journalist who tells us the story we are about to see is all true and not for the feint hearted Deranged veers between a disturbing portrait of a serial killer and a jet black horror comedy akin to Motel Hell.
With nasty deaths and lots of gore and gruesome effects all made by special effects artist and cult icon Tom Savini who worked on the film there is a grindhouse feel to Deranged that coupled with the so sick it’s funny situations, including Ezra constantly admitting to his crimes even though no one believes him, make it all the more cult and all the more entertaining.
What keeps things from falling too far into splatter parody is Roberts Blossom amazing performance which is so straight laced and unsettling it grounds the film firmly in horror. Dealing with some dark and terrifying themes from sexual perversion and repression to necrophilia to incest Blossom also manages to inject a very human side to Cobb who’s sheltered life has left him almost childlike in his old age.
Ultimately it is grief and sadness which has driven Cobb to do the awful and terrible things he does and although the film never excuses his actions it at least goes a way to trying to explain them.
The amazing Arrow have packed this release with excellent extras including audio commentary from Tom Savini, great features on Blossom and Gein, the original trailer, a stills gallery and a collectors booklet featuring new writing on the film by Stephen Thrower author of Nightmare USA.
Although this horror was made on the cheap and cashed in on the sensationalized story of a real life serial killer it manages to be much more effective and affecting than bigger budget more serious movies.
The shocking truth is Deranged may be deranged but it is also makes a lot of sense.