31 Days of Gore: Deranged (1974)

It’s October. Time to talk horror. This year I’m reviewing a different horror movie each day of the month.

Oh yay, yet another movie inspired by Ed Gein.

There’s a good chance I’ve seen Deranged before and completely forgot it. That’s because it’s completely forgettable despite decent acting, better-than-average camerawork (for a movie like this), and a wonderfully odd séance, which involves a lonely widow pretending she’s possessed by the spirit of her dead husband; his spirit, the woman claims, wants Cobb to “make her feel like a woman again.”

That’s the best part in the entire movie.

The movie opens with the following card: “The motion picture you are about to see is absolutely true.” I’ve never believed a movie when it went out of its way to tell me it was a true story, but I believe it even less when it feels the need to add the word “absolutely.” For added realism, the movie is hosted, 70s documentary style, by a man who claims he’s a real life newspaper columnist.

Uh-huh. Sure.

The newsman’s asides give the film a hokey Faces of Death feel, which is fun, but the filmmakers completely forget this character by the time they get to the second half, which drags like a tortoise in molasses. The first half of the film is actually promising. It’s a quietly bizarre affair that somehow makes a sympathetic character out of Erza Cobb, the film’s serial killer. Unfortunately, the only reason I didn’t fall asleep during Deranged’s second half is because I was hopped up on coffee.

Roberts Blossom, who’s probably best known as the sweet old man in Home Alone, plays Cobb the serial killer. In an introductory scene it’s made clear he loves his mother very much, so much so he’s trying to feed her pea soup even though her nose is bleeding all over it. When she dies he’s left heartbroken. A year later, he gets the brilliant idea to dig her up and take her back home. When the town sheriff pulls Cobb over with his mother in the passenger seat, the policeman mistakes the smell of a rotting corpse for alcohol on Cobb’s breath… and lets Cobb drive home anyway.

“Do you know what the real meaning of Christmas is, Kevin?”

All is well for Cobb now that Mom’s back at home—other than the fact her skin is deteriorating. Well, no matter. He’ll just borrow skin from other women to keep her fresh. It’s not long until Cobb himself is wearing the skin of his victims, baiting far more women than he really needs to complete his restoration project.

Like I said, I really enjoyed the first half of Deranged, but the second half is stretching the taffy a little too thin. I like good horror movies and I like bad ones, but mediocre is unforgivable with material as inherently deranged as this.

Come back at midnight Central Time for the next movie.

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