Double Bill
MOTEL HELL. 1980
Director: Kevin Connor

DERANGED. 1974
Director: Jeff Gillen & Alan Ormesby

ED GEIN. 2001
Director: Stephen Johnston

TED BUNDY. 2002
Director: Matthew Bright

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



Motel HellI viewed Motel Hell (1980) & Deranged (1974) off the same DVD. All too often when two films are lumped together, neither one is very good, but either one of these would fully merit obtaining as its own DVD with its own extras. They do also make a splendid horror double feature.

Motel Hell is by far the best, since it's one of the best psycho killer comedies ever done, full of real wit & imagination, good performances all round.

I first saw it at a drive-in when it was new, or perhaps second-run, & a couple times in the intervening decades, & am each time delighted by reaquaintance, as it never fails to be as as cool as I remember.

Motel HellRory Calhoune in particular is a hoot as the grandfatherly kind ol' crazy-bastard Farmer Vincent. Vincent's dying confession is a wonderful punch-line.

The motel was originally named Motel Hello, but the "o" on the neon sign has quite properly burned out. The humor of the piece does not keep some of it from being pretty damned creepy.

The whole idea of the garden of people planted up to their necks, with their voices carved out, gurgling at one another & thirsting for revenge, is simply ugly-ass weird.

A few years from now I'm bound to yet again view Motel Hell & be charmed by it all over again. I'll never again be taken by surprise by the terrible revelation about those hams, but I doubt I'll ever fail to giggle at farmer Vincent's splendid confession.



Deranged Deranged (aka Deranged: Confessions of a Necrophile) is a more poker-faced film, with scenes that prefigure Silence of the Lambs & a central performance by Robert Blossom reminiscent of the award-worthy performance of Billy Bob Thornton in Sling Blade (1996).

Stunning as is Robert Blossom's performance, he is very nearly upstaged by an awesome expression of angry insanity from Cossett Lee as Ezra's mother. There's never any doubt where he got his own unhappy psychosis.

Although based on the same historical crime that produced Robert Bloch & Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960), they are wildly different adaptations.

Ezra Cobb is a much more "realistic" take on psychopath Ed Gein than was Norman Bates, with none of Bates' campy charm.

Deranged certainly is a low budget feature but many pegs above the usual action-circuit & drive-in-movie films of the 1970s. In its own cruel way it's a work of genius.



Ed GeinFor years Deranged was the film closest to telling the "true" story of Wisconsin's most famous serial killer, even though the man inspired not only Psycho but also Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974, plus sequels & remakes), & the secondary psycho in Silence of the Lambs (1991) who gets dressed up in victims' skin.

Then in 2001 a little slasher feature Ed Gein (2001) faced the man dead-on, his creepy insane fixation on his domineering mother (excellently played by Carrie Snodgrass) that lasted beyond her death, his collection of dug-up dead women, & eventually setting out to make his own fresh & yummy corpses.

Many slasher fans didn't like this one because it was insufficiently gorey & strangely paced, but I thought it was brilliant-of-kind refusing to be a mere schlock slashfest.

It proavided the superb character actor Steve Railsback a chance to really create a credible portrait of lonely depravity, a man whose sexual fantasies center around corpses & obscure religious rites, his desires acted out by wearing human skin & prancing around beating on drums in perverted religious ecstasy.

The film rests almost entirely on Railsback's performance. If you like that, & you should, you'll see in this film a near-work-of-art in the mode of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986), understating its extreme content. If you don't buy into Railsback's performance, it's just a cheap & cheezy slasher delivering too little slash.



Ted BundyAmong "minor" but to me important directors too little recognized, one of my favorites is Matthew Bright, for such films as Freeway, Guncrazy, & Confessions of a Trickbaby, all of which provide exciting, violent, eccentric roles for women.

However, if I hadn't seen other films he had written or directed or both, I probably wouldn't've noticed any grace or subtlety to his film about the historical psychopath Ted Bundy (2002) who started his career of woman-killilng right here in the Pacific Northwest. I disliked the film's nonstop brutality toward women, & I disliked this film.

At first glance the historical realities of Ted as a sexual psycho who killed only women seems merely an excuse for a pre-Halloween type slasher in which no time has to be wasted menacing guys & all the focus can be on ripping up attractive women.

The context of Matthew Bright's other films, however, demand a closer look, as he has proven in the majority of his films that he can tackle material that might seem purely exploitative & in most director-writers' hands would be solely exploitative, but Bright can transcend the seedier value of his films to create violent artful filmscapes about really interesting characters & then get great choices of actresses & actors to play them.

Ted Bundy isn't one of those films that achieves a level of art & so is easily mistaken for the sort of slash-women films such as less capable directors make with scarsely any thought beyond making something that costs very little & will quickly turn a profit. There is more to Bright's script & closer examination reveals no sympathy for Ted, & the only moment of glee occurs when the power situations Ted created for his own sexual gratification gets reversed on the day he is sent to the electric chair, & he is put through steps that directly parallel powerlessness, rape, & murder.

His series of slayings are portrayed in a very brutal matter-of-fact manner, & the background information we're provided about Ted's personality is almost on the level of a docudrama. The only moment of heroism anywhere in the film is from a young woman who successfully fights for her life. There is no sense of having fun in the directorial eye when Ted succeeds at his desire for absolute control culminating in slaughter.

By the ending we know what a narcisistic s.o.b. he is & how absolutely he cares about no one's feelings but his own. Of the "happy-go-lucky likeable killer" we get out of Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates or Sir Anthony Hopkins as Hannible the Cannibal, there is not a glimmer. Ted is a monster & portrayed by Michael Reilly Burke as relentlessly horrifying, the more so due to his ability to fit in as a normal seeming guy. The next Ted could be almost anyone except who we suspect.
copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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