“It is a human horror story of ghastly proportions and profound reverberations. But because it is human, perhaps we can learn something from it… something of ourselves, of our own fears and needs. But please, let me warn you… the events have been recreated in detail. Nothing has been left to the imagination. It is not a story for the squeamish or the fainthearted. Now that you stand warned, we can proceed with our story.”
Ed Gein has become almost a part of Wisconsin folklore. A man seemingly only ever alive in legend. His evil spirit seems to whisper through the trees at times. He haunts the subconscious of every small farming town. But his story is about a demented part of the human soul that still seems to fascinate people all these decades later.
There are a whole slew of films inspired by this notorious Wisconsin’s resident. Three of the most iconic killers in cinema (Leatherface, Norman Bates and Buffalo Bill) all take their inspiration from this twisted, sick man. Plainfield, Gein’s hometown, was about an hour from where I grew up as a kid. Both of my parents were quite young in 1957, but my dad still remembers that November. It is one of the few things that keeps this horror story based in reality.
Deranged: The Confessions of a Necrophile isn’t a fun one, you can probably assume that by the title, but it can sometimes be a bit of a funny film. Just watch the cheerful trailer for yourself:
What this trailer is sorely lacking is that AWFUL organ music. I don’t mean awful as in “songs by an organ player who has taken three lessons,” I mean the most disturbing organ music you will hear in a horror film. It sounds like you walked into a church where everyone has started to decompose, and that’s sort of what this movie feels like.
Ezra Cobbs (played by the compelling Roberts Blossom) lives on a farm with his mother Amanda, who has been paralysed by a stroke. This part of his story is much like Gein’s (in fact, the two are pretty much exactly the same, which begs the question as to why they decided to change his name anyway). Ez is dedicated to his mother, who has essentially manipulated him his entire life. This woman is terrible. Her life motto is, “the wages of sin is gonorrhea, syphilis and death.”
But after spewing her twisted idea of “religion” one more time, the old woman bites the big one. This was one of the first films Tom Savini ever worked on. This scene alone has his finger prints all over it. The bright colour of blood in the 70s mixed with pea soup is pretty appalling.
It becomes obvious that the loss of Mama will take a toll on Ez. At her funeral, he has an exchange with his neighbours Harlan and Jenny Kootz. Harlan remarks that Amanda looks like she is sleeping. But of course to Ez, she really is just sleeping – waiting for him to wake her up and take care of her once more.
Life for Ez without Mama is not easy. It is to write him off as someone who is just nuts (which he is), but this is the mind of a many who was clearly mentally abused by his mother for his entire life. Despite how terrible of a woman she is, he can’t realise that because he worships her. He keeps her room nice and writes her letters every day, but Mama isn’t pleased.
She keeps tormenting Ez’s mind. He abandoned her… So a year after her passing, he digs up her grave and brings her home. All while feeling massive guilt for letting her be buried in the first place.
With mother and son being reunited, Ez begins his work “restoring” his mama back to her former glory. He gets the idea to begin digging up graves and starts to take bits from the female corpses and create a new flesh for his mother. But it isn’t long before his bosses, the Kootzes, recommend he starts to take ladies out.
When Ez starts to ponder their advice, he remembers a name his mother mention to him on his deathbed: Maureen Selby. Why can Ez trust her? Because he’s a fat heifer. This was one of the funniest moments in the movie, for me. Perhaps it just brought me joy to hear someone be called a heifer. Life is strange like that. He agrees with the Kootzes and goes to meet Maureen.
Now these scenes with Maureen at terribly strange. Like with the Kootzes, Ez is super open about how crazy he is, but no one listens to him. When he tells Maureen he talks to his mama, she isn’t concerned because she talks to her ex-husband. The two begin to grow fond of each other, but that is until Ez remembers the advice his mother gave him: ” stay away from filthy, black-souled sluts with pus-filled sores.”
Only a mother’s love.
But Ez’s obsession with women only grows, and spoilers – this one doesn’t have a happy ending. If you know Gein’s story, Ez’s isn’t too different. There are some macabre scenes that occur – many horrific but many also treading that line between horror and comedy. The scenes with the Kootzes are full of suspense. This soft world that Ez lives in is never cruel to him, but no one (especially Ez) seems to understand how sick and twisted his mind is.
This movie is bloody disgusting. I’m glad I planned my meals around it because all the rotting flesh is enough to make you feel just a bit ill. Ezra Cobbs is a sick man, but you can’t help but feel something for a man that has been so disturbed by the only person he ever really loved. Deranged surprised me by how much I enjoyed it. There is a lot of style here for a horror film released in ’74 and it really tries. Roberts Blossom gives a haunting performance of a man totally unhinged but a victim to his own mind. It actually affected how I felt afterwards – which is a lot to be said about a cheap b-movie.
Initially, I was very hesitant to pick this one. The full title worried me immensely. But without ruining anything, there is no necrophilia here in the sexual sense. Demented stays true to the story it is trying to tell. There are many films based on Gein’s life, but I’m happy I chose this one. I can’t believe it but I actually was moved by this movie. I recommend it gladly to anyone willing to watch a b-movie with a taste for style, comedy and something truly horrible.