Tuesday, April 6, 2010

In short: Criminally Insane 2 (1987)

aka Crazy Fat Ethel 2

After the occurrences in Criminally Insane, always hungry serial killer Ethel (Priscilla Alden) has spent the last ten years in an asylum again, whiling away her time eating and flashing back to the first film.

As it goes, budget cuts make it necessary that never cured serial killers are put in halfway houses, and Ethel is the perfect candidate. Surely, nothing can go wrong when she confuses the head of the her new home with her granny and one of her co-patients with the cop who arrested her! 

But before Ethel can have her killing relapse, there's time for more flashbacks, exciting scenes of a co-patient wiggling his hands and eating flies, about an hour of footage of a guy putting dog food on plates and even more flashbacks. Well, what's half an hour of a viewer's life?

Later, there will also be some business with the pseudo-cop co-patient trying to blackmail Ethel, but I was already so drowsy at that point of the proceedings that I don't remember any relevant details. I highly doubt there were any.

I thought the first Criminally Insane was a little wonder as far as kitchen-sink horror films go, with a slightly campy but down to earth aesthetic you don't usually see in the idealization-prone serial killer movie. Its SOV sequel of twelve years later however is quite a different thing. It is a Frankensteinian effort, half of the film consisting of re-used footage of its shot on film and comparably lavish looking predecessor and the other half of painfully dull and ugly looking new footage, most probably shot with a consumer grade video camera. The contrast between the two types of scenes only emphasises how bad the video material looks.

The camera work is as static as possible. Director Nick Millard seems to have forgotten everything he knew about composition or effective editing and instead applies his forbidden new knowledge of the "Sleep" spell (a successful Will saving throw results in drowsiness instead of sleep) with frightening enthusiasm.

The acting isn't much better. Priscilla Alden still has quite a presence and puts a lot of energy in her campy performance, but the rest of the cast just sits there and drones their dialogue as if someone had forgotten to tell them they were being filmed and not just going through their lines for rehearsal.

Still, I didn't find Criminally Insane 2 completely uninteresting, just fantastically boring. I did love the first film, after all, and the body of this sequel wears that film's stitched-on head beside its own with pride. It is possible that this makes Criminally Insane 2 the manster of horror. It is also possible that I have finally suffered brain damage through bad movies.


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