Criminally Insane

Day Four of the 2010 Silver Shamrock Happy Halloween Countdown!

Happy Halloween Countdown Day Four: Criminally Insane

Criminally Insane:

Way back in the day, before streaming on demand, before Netflix, before Blockbuster rose and fell, there was the local VHS rental shop.  Most local rental shops were small mom and pop shops that made a living renting new releases, but still had a fair bit of a library, some of them expanded into massive video shops that carried everything from new major studio releases to the most obscure and low budget films imaginable.   We had one of these in town whose horror collection alone would fill the shelf space at an average Blockbuster outlet.   It was at this store, and places like it, that you could find the hidden gems, such as Criminally Insane, a film so delicious it has to be fattening!

Ethel, a mildly retarded, obese twenty-something woman who lives with her grandmother, has just returned home from the mental hospital where she had been undergoing treatment for her uncontrollable fits of rage.  While in the hospital, she was put of a strict diet, which she resented, now that she is home, she’s eating everything in sight: a dozen fried eggs with a pound of bacon and six or seven pieces of toast for breakfast, half gallons of ice cream, six or seven baked potatoes for lunch, and the ever present boxes of Nilla Wafers.  Granny, concerned for Ethel’s health, puts the food under lock and key.  Mayhem ensues as Ethel’s insatiable hunger lead to more than a hefty grocery bill.

Criminally Insane, a super low budget film made in 1973 and a super fun take on the slasher genre, a genre I avoid for the most part.  Criminally Insane is an exception to the rule, made a year before The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and five years before Halloween, it took the slasher film into low budget black comedy territory before the sub-genre had even fully set sail.  Criminally Insane, populated with odd, sad and repellent characters, is carried largely by Priscilla Alden’s Ethel.  It’s horrible, like watching a violent car wreck with one of the cars being a tiny clown filled car and the other a cream pie delivery truck.

Though the movie looks  like it was shot through a dirty windshield, features action sequences and editing that are amateurish; it does have a few virtues not usually found in a low budget film, namely the sound engineering is a notch up from what you’d expect.  Good sound isn’t noticeable, but bad sound will kill a movie.   Criminally Insane has professional sound.  The acting is fairly good.  Running at a slender sixty minutes and moving a good pace keeps this grimy little low budget movie from becoming a bore.  It definitely has some great gasping moments.

3 Responses to “Criminally Insane”

  • TreverT:

    I can’t believe I’ve never seen this. I assume you have seen Black Christmas, another very early proto-slasher? If not, I believe you would enjoy it.

  • Captain Midnight:

    I have it. I’m saving it for Christmas :D.

    Criminally Insane is easy to miss. It has never been widely distributed that I am aware. The only reason I found it was that the monster video store I rented it from pretty much seemed to acquire at least one copy of everything their suppliers carried. My frame of mind at the time was to rent the worst movies I could find.

  • TreverT:

    “Black Christmas” has become one of my regular holiday Christmas films. It is marvelous. It’s one of the most artistic “slasher” films you will ever see (No overt gore, very subdued, very much about the tension instead of the hacking). First time I saw it, I was impressed, but it is one of those films that gets much, much better on re-viewing.

    It also has one of the creepiest frickin’ killers in all of cinema.

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