Thursday, 26 June 2014

Crazed (1978) Richard Cassidy

Shot in 1977 as The Paranoiac, screened in 1979 as Slipping Into Darkness and released on VHS as Bloodshed or Crazed, its best known title, what we have here is one of these largely forgotten but worthy of rediscovery dealies. Not lurid enough for psychotronic proto slasher fans, too slow and sombre for regular slasher fans, too obscure and low rent for mainstream fans, Crazed works as one of the more offbeat and feel-bad Psycho riffs before they faded into the past, and it works pretty well, if not exactly spectacular. The story is based around Karen, young attractive and diabetic she leaves her rural life her boyfriend to take a creative writing course in the big city. After several failed attempts she finally finds a boarding house to stay in, and there meets Graham. An odd, quiet fellow in thrall to the old lady who owns the place, he rather takes a shine to Karen. And, well, you don't exactly have to be Nostradamus to figure out where things are going... 

The pacing here may put off many, but there's a near constant atmosphere of oppressive shabby eccentricity that is quite powerful after a time. Barely anyone in the film is normal or on the up and up, from the lonely, deaf, kooky old biddy who runs the boarding house to an aggressively pretentious creative writing professor. Beverly Ross is just fair as Karen, it isn't the most thankful role to begin with but she puts across cowed and over passive yet really trying to break out in reasonably convincing fashion. Her averageness rather works though, making the weirdos around squeeze all the tighter. And she forms an attractive contrast with Graham, a lady who can fit in with a man who never has. Laszlo Papas does quite well as Graham, an awkward, sad oddball with distinct festering menace within, while only shining a few times he nonetheless conjures a low level compelling sympathy. Rejected by family, abused by a priest and flashing back to both of these one time when he goes to a massage parlour, working nights at a hotel, he's no monster really. 

I could perhaps have done with a jolt or two more, but when this really gets moving it does so in quite unsettling fashion, there's a little blood, a little nudity and a little intensity, it's a satisfying sort of a finale unless you've gotten through the first half and misinterpreted the whole tone of the thing. Some have criticised the music for being over lively and inappropriate but I rather liked the old fashioned nature of it. A bit more flourish to the direction wouldn't have gone amiss, but there are still some interesting shots and bits of editing. All in all this is a pretty good example of what it sets out to do. Quirky but serious, obscure and downbeat, there's a fairly select audience for this stuff and Crazed should definitely appeal. Others can pretty safely skip though.

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