The Review: The whole reason I ever even started up Varied Celluloid was essentially to bring the world reviews for films like the one I’m discussing today. I originally reviewed Criminally Insane back when the site first started up (2003) and I was always kind of proud to be one of the few people out there having any kind of comment or analysis for such an obscure title. Little did I know back then that there was also the Death Nurse series which was basically spawned from Criminally Insane AKA: Crazy Fat Ethel. I knew that the original Criminally Insane spawned SOME sort of cult audience, but enough for four films? It’s amazing, but I suppose the interest was there. Afterall, I’ve seen Priscilla Alden referred to on more than one occasion as a “cult horror icon”. I don’t know if I’d stretch it and say Icon, but these b-level horrors certainly deserve some sort of notoriety. Not for any reasons that one would call “good”, but how many “heavyset woman kills so she can eat food” flicks have you seen recently that aren’t titled Criminally Insane? I thought so. This sequel picks up several years down the line from the first, with Priscilla looking a little older but still having that cold demeanor that actually kind of worked in the original flick. The jump from film to video however isn’t a gracious one, and is ultimately very unforgiving due to its muckier visuals.
In a sixty minute feature, you know you’ve got problems when the first fifteen minutes are mostly flashbacks to the original. It didn’t work in The Hills Have Eyes 2 (not the sequel to the remake, the original sequel) and it doesn’t work here. This is sort of the first hint out of the gate that Criminally Insane 2 isn’t going to be as memorable as the original. Which really doesn’t bode well since the original was only memorable because it was one of those cinematic oddities that you just can’t believe was actually made. Now you’re left scratching your head throughout the duration of this film because who can believe they actually made a sequel to Criminally Insane! On a serious note however, if you haven’t seen the original film one of the few interesting things it had going for it was the arthouse style approach it took instead of just being a straight ahead exploitation shocker. With a soundtrack (that transports itself back in this sequel) of jangly piano notes being played, with plenty of lingering shots that drone on forever. The same format is brought back for the sequel, for better or for worse. Well, let me just save you the drama, it’s definitely for the worse.
I’ll try not to be too negative on Criminally Insane 2. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel, picking on a flick like this. Although a fairly boring affair, it does seek to spice things up by putting Ethel in the house with someone that could very well be her match, another cold blooded killer who could maybe avoid her traps – but this lasts all of about ten minutes before the film falls back into the patently repetitive “Ethel kills anyone who stops her from eating” routine. Then there’s the whole arthouse style that at least separates the series from the rest of the slasher genre. Let’s not kid ourselves though, Criminal Insane 2 AKA: Crazy Fat Ethel is just about everything you could expect it to be. It’s a slow paced sequel made up with about a quarter of it’s running time with clips from the first film, shot on video with non-actors (aside from Priscilla, who is certainly amusing in her role but not because of any expressions of acting talent) and very little violence. Hey, it is what it is. B-movie fans should definitely flock to this one, simply for the sake of having it in their collection. However, aside from a few unintentionally funny bits (“Granny, give me those pretzels back!!!”) it really doesn’t have much going for it at all. It’s a 1 out of five, because it’s not so dreadful that it causes physical pain to sit through and it’s not entertaining enough to warrant anything higher.