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.