Tag: roberts blossom

Deranged


Deranged (1974)
★★ / ★★★★

Ezra (Roberts Blossom) has lived with his mother (Cosette Lee) his entire life. He is unmarried and without a girlfriend to keep him company. He does not have very many friends either. He has one, Harlon (Robert Earner), who makes Ezra feel welcome every time he visits. Ezra keeps to himself unless he has to go to town to buy supplies.

When Ezra’s mother dies, he misses her so terribly, he starts writing letters to her as if she were only on a trip abroad. After a year of grieving, he finally decides to dig up her body and take her home. But after a year of being in the ground, it is natural that she has decomposed. His memory of Ma does not reflect actuality so he searches for relatively fresh corpses, excises their limbs, and attaches the pieces to his mother’s rotting body.

Based on the Ed Gein murders, “Deranged,” written by Alan Ormsby, avoids portraying Ezra as a necrophiliac serial killer of the week. After his loved one’s death—even though the manner in which she dies is somewhat ridiculous and darkly funny—Ezra’s lamentation is allowed a level of sincerity. Because his grief is given weight, we have a chance to sympathize with him before his way of thinking takes a turn for the abnormal.

Ezra’s path of serial murders roots from wanting to be loved by another woman. When it comes to Ezra meeting a member of the opposite sex, their interactions often end up badly which are then accompanied by flashes of Ma making him feel guilty for wanting to feel good physically.

The screenplay takes a risk with each woman that Ezra encounters. Instead of showing us barely clothed women running in the woods, the majority of the victims are given personalities. They are not forgotten from the moment they are killed. For instance, there is one amusing and creative scene involving Ezra and Maureen (Marian Waldman), the only woman Ezra’s mother ever trusted. The two hold a séance in order to communicate with those who passed. Soon enough, Maureen is supposedly possessed by her husband’s spirit. The “spirit,” or Maureen’s desperation incarnate, asks Ezra to make Maureen feel like a woman again by caressing her breasts, kissing her lips, and putting her to bed.

It is a risk because the sequence does not have anything to do with the murders. The way it could have happened was Ezra knocking on Maureen’s door, the woman letting a stranger inside her apartment because he claimed to need some sort of help—like needing to use the telephone—and then Ezra attacking when she least expected it. But that is formulaic. The séance scene is included in the picture because it is simply fun to watch.

Similar deviations from the main plot, though never meandering, add charm to Ezra’s twisted extracurricular activity. In a way, it works since it allows us to get inside the lead character’s head. The off the beaten track sense of humor suggests that perhaps Ezra does not take the act of taking another person’s life all that seriously. However, “Deranged,” directed by Jeff Gillen and Alan Ormsby, could have benefited from having a more defined final act. The ending is too abrupt. An extra five minutes might have given us a chance to really absorb and appreciate Ezra’s meltdown.

Home Alone


Home Alone (1990)
★★★ / ★★★★

The McCallister household was frantic a few days before Christmas because the entire family and a few relatives were about to head to France for vacation. Kevin (Macaulay Culkin), one of the youngest of the kids, felt neglected because his siblings and cousins wouldn’t take the time to help him pack his luggage. Not even his parents could take a minute of their time to aid the plucky youngster. So, during dinner, Kevin acted out and was sent to sleep in the attic as punishment. The next day, everyone slept in and had forgotten they had a flight. As a result of their hustle and bustle, they boarded the plane to Europe completely unaware that Kevin wasn’t with them. “Home Alone,” written by John Hughes and directed by Chris Columbus, was a huge success commercially because it played upon one of a kid’s and a parent’s biggest fear (being alone at home while burglars tried to force themselves in and leaving behind a child, respectively). One of the many smart elements about the film was the fact that the two criminals (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) were kept outside of the house for the majority of the picture. Kevin was forced to create many creative and funny diversions to make the robbers believe that the house had people in it. Much to Kevin’s advantage, the two criminals were complete idiots. (Their modus operandi was leaving the water running in the sink after they’ve looted the place.) What made the film much better than a typical child-in-trouble story was Culkin’s energetic and hilarious performance. He was as cute as a marshmallow but he was precocious so he was able to pull off lines that adults might say. His facial expressions–may it be surprise, joy, or teary-eyed sadness were simply priceless. Surprisingly, I found the slapstick comedy thoroughly entertaining. It wasn’t done just because it was convenient. The slapstick was a result of Kevin using household items (and his toys) as a defense against men who wanted to hurt him. When someone slipped on the ice or when someone was hit on the head with an iron, I couldn’t help but wince as if I was the one in pain. But the whole experience was enjoyable because we didn’t want the villains to get their hands on our tiny but brave protagonist. What did not work for me as much was the creepy-looking neighbor (Roberts Blossom) who turned out to have a heart. The scene dedicated to exploring the man’s backstory (a typical one at that) slowed the story’s momentum. Nevertheless, “Home Alone” is a very charming film. More that twenty years have passed since its release, but it still holds up as one of the favorite family movies often played around Christmas. I cannot image anyone not being entertained by its sharp wit, heart, and manic energy.