Criminally Insane | Varied Celluloid

Criminally Insane

Posted by Josh Samford On July - 22 - 2008
Plot Outline: Ethel Janowski is an obese woman in the local mental institution because of her fits of violent rage, but after some electro shock therapy and a good pat on the back the system somehow feels she’s fit to enter back into society, even though her doctor seems to feel otherwise. Her grandmother picks her up from the home and drives her back to the home for some rest & relaxation. Turns out though, Ethel wants to eat, even though her doctor warned her to hold off from some meals for the sake of her heart. Mrs. Janowski takes it upon herself to place all of her food in the pantry and lock it, which turns out to be a big mistake once Ethel stabs her in the back and cuts her hand open to get to the key. Now Ethel is alone in the house and before long she’s out of food so she calls on the delivery boy to bring her some food. She agrees to pay her bill once the boy brings her the food, but since she only has four bucks she backs out of the deal. The boy almost gets away but Ethel hits him over the head with a glass bottle then stabs him in the stomach repeatedly. Now Ethel has two dead bodies rotting in the upstairs section of her house and now her cousin has decided to stay in the house as well. She brings along her tricks and her pimp, all while Ethel starts having to deal with the cops knocking at her door about a missing delivery boy. It’s only a matter of time before she explodes once again.

  

The Review: I really shouldn’t be ‘reviewing’ this film, I really shouldn’t, because to be honest it’s not really even a movie. I don’t know what this is. It’s something one would imagine a bunch of friends would shoot over the weekend just on a whim for fun, but then someone actually sold the distribution rights. I find it hard to imagine the circumstances behind a film like Criminally Insane. It’s too out of my reach to possibly understand. This is a film I would have never thought could be made in a million years and I don’t even want to trash it, because frankly that’s just too easy. The film has absolutely no plot nor a budget to make the film on, it just exists. There’s no logical explanation for the film, but if you’ve got a high tolerance for b-movie pain, there might be some satisfaction for some of you. Just to be able to say you’ve seen a film where a fat woman kills people that try to stop her from eating. Seriously, try and tell someone about a film like that and see what kind of reaction you get. It will either be sheer horror that someone could be so cruel or uncontrollable laughter followed by questioning into whether you are lying to them or not. Either way, the best part about owning something like Criminally Insane is the sheer fact that you own it. The novelty of owning something so ridiculous and obscure holds true value for a lot of us. The content of the movie only counts on just how bad the film is, and Criminally Insane is quite fitting for anyone’s ‘worst films ever’ list. I don’t hate the film personally, not like I did Blackenstein. Criminally Insane is just as inept as that film, probably even more so, but the fact that it isn’t even a full hour long kind of prevents it from dragging ‘too’ much and if you like to laugh at a b-movie then it’s a fairly easy film to amuse yourself with. I’ve watched the film twice, more than any man need to, and on both occasions the film just blurred past my retinas. It’s as boring as any film ever made, but at least it’s stupid enough to be entertaining and short enough for me not to care.

Where does one start with a film like this? All I guess I can do is run down all of the little strange and stupid moments. Okay, lets’s start with the terrible music cues because it was one of the first things I noticed while watching the film. The soundtrack it’s self is almost done fairly well, it’s a jangly tuned out piano playing over dead air, and sometimes it can even evoke a certain atmosphere in the film. As silly as it sounds. The tune plays through most of the movie, but while watching, keep an eye out for the extremely bad edits. In one instance we cut from Ethel being tortured/healed with electric shock therapy into a scene with Ethel’s grandmother talking to her psychiatrist at the mental institute right before she is set free. The scenes are so badly spliced together that I still wonder if my copy of it was screwed up. We go from the jangly piano score, right into this scene with the doctor and the words out of the grandmother’s mouth are “…all right now doctor?”. I can assume that she’s asking about her granddaughter, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that I only heard half the question asked. The worst part about it is the jumping on the soundtrack, which is repeated throughout the film. We go from this eerie, atmospheric score right into some horrendous dialogue or even worse, some scene that could have benefited from the score being lowered into the background. The music never fades away, it just stops at a dead halt. The editing within the film is joke, another favorite of mine is the dream sequence towards the end. If you thought you knew strange, trust me you don’t until you see Criminally Insane. At one point Ethel is lying in her bed next to a dead body, and she starts laughing for like three minutes all while we cut to this strange scene with her hacking up a dummy. It’s hard to understand what is going on in this sequence, because it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. I have no idea if the dummy on the ground is supposed to be real and Ethel is dreaming of killing a person or what, if it is supposed to be a human then… my god. The dummy lying on the ground isn’t even a full dummy, it’s half of a mannequin. It has no lower torso, it’s pale white with a black wig on it’s head and a black dress (or something like one) wrapped around it’s upper half. When Ethel slams her knife down on it’s arms it bleeds, so one would assume it’s supposed to be real, but how could they ever expect an audience to fall for that? It tops the scene in Zombi Holocaust where the arm flies off of the dummy that hits the pavement. At least it had all of it’s limbs before it hit the concrete. The dream sequence, which I guess would be the technical term for it, really is about three minutes long. It starts off with Ethel laughing and ends with Ethel laughing. I would be willing to bet the whole thing was thrown together just to add some length to the film, maybe to get it beyond the hour mark. The special effects in the film as noted are extremely amateurish. You can’t exactly hate the film for that, it’s obvious they had no money, but I wish they would have had some more convincing blood. What is used in the film really does look like red paint, and as demonstrated in the dream sequence where Ethel washes blood off of her blade, it’s extremely thick and hard to get off. I doubt it was actually red paint because several characters put it on their head, more like tomato sauce or something similar. The blood just shows up in gallons on top of whoever Ethel kills. One thing that kept annoying me throughout the film was that even though Ethel is slamming this meat cleaver into the head of her victims, she never actually penetrates the skin. She just keeps slamming it down, while we hear sound effect as if she were hitting wood with an axe, and pulling back with no hesitation. Then after it’s over it looks as if the dead bodies were stabbed in the head and nothing more. If someone really bashed your head in with a meat cleaver about twelve times, your head would have had slices all the way up and down it, that is if your head wouldn’t have been split into pieces. I of course wasn’t expecting state of the art effects, but it’s just one of those things you laugh at while watching the film. They should have limited Ethel to hitting her corpses in the chest, that way at least we could assume that all the blood was part of the act.

The directing in the film, for the most part, really isn’t ‘that’ bad. The director probably chose to place the camera in too many different angles (thus cutting to several different reaction shots) but he at least added some style to the film. The dream sequence took things a little too far with the cutting between inverted color special effects and ‘arty’ slow motion shots, but for the most part he was more impressive than something like Blackenstein (Referenced twice in this review now! Must. hold. back. comparisons!), and I’ll commend him for such. The acting, well, do I even have to say anything? The acting is laughable and if you’re reading this review then I’m sure you already know that. Priscilla Alden as Ethel is fairly decent in her role I guess, but she’s not exactly doing Shakespeare and the film doesn’t ask for such. She is intimidating and freaky, so I guess she does her job well. The rest of the cast aren’t really worth mentioning. Well, maybe I could mention the guy who plays John. He gets to utter the single greatest bit of dialogue I think I’ve ever heard. After Ethel’s sister, who is lying in bed with John, gets angry because John beat the living crap out of her. She asks, if he loves her so much, why did he do it? John’s reply is a cinematic treasure. “Rosalee I’m going to tell you the truth for once. Okay? You need a good beating every once in a while. All women do. And You especially. Okay?”. What truly makes the scene so hilarious is that she immediately starts passionately kissing him. I mean, after words so beautiful, what girl wouldn’t!? Just one of the many standout moments in the film. Do I recommend the film? For b-movie enthusiasts, absolutely. It’s only an hour long, but it’s an hour worth of true insanity. Believe it or not, I’m giving this film a two. It’s on the same level of horrors as Blackenstein (Strike three, please get out of here) but whereas Blackenstein was boring and stupid, Criminally Insane is entertaining while being boring and stupid. The scenes move slow, but the film is over before you can even comment on how crappy it is. It’s not PC in it’s treatment of ‘overweight’ people and that’s one of the main reasons to even have it. Criminally Insane is a very special movie, now someone please shoot me in the forehead.

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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.

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