Deranged (1987)

At some point in filmmaking history, people—ahem, men—decided that all women in the thoes of a mental breakdown do the following:

  • eat their feelings with reckless abandon
  • modern dance (pronounced dahnse) around a living room without music
  • coo sweetly, “I’ve been a good girl, Daddy!” to no one in particular, especially not to Daddy who is long dead and was, quite frankly, a real asshole 

I don’t know why insane women are associated with voracious eating in films. No, wait, I do know why. It’s because only a truly psychotic woman would not worry about her girlish figure to please society (ahem, men). At any rate, nothing will top Louise Lasser’s performance in Blood Rage where she wails in front of an open fridge with a glass of wine in one hand and a fistful of vanilla cake in the other. If there is one scene from a movie that sums up my spiritual center, it is that one. Of course actual mental breakdowns rarely involve trays upon trays of casseroles, but crying and laying in bed for hours on end just isn’t cinematic enough for the big or small screens.

Deranged takes that checklist of women-on-the-verge idiosyncrasies and checks off every box. It’s a rip-off of Repulsion, only updated with adult film stars playing it straight. There are dangerously tight grey briefs, ineffectual psychiatric sessions, and an incredible amount of histrionic shrieking. 

Poor Joyce. She hears incessant voices in her head, mainly about her “gigolo bum husband” Frank. At her baby shower, she has visions of mourners at her own funeral, which then turns into a twisted game show. The staging and acting is theatrical, complete with stage fog and an over-the-top, babbling priest. 

Then, Joyce gets attacked by a figure clad in black. They scuffle on her living room floor, and she manages to dig a knife into him and hides his body under a table, which as we know, is the best place to hide a body. The only clues left of the attack are a blood-stained carpet and a stench that bothers the neighbors. The intruder’s dead, but what about the baby? 

Well, what about it?

Quickly, Joyce sees real and imagined traumas play out in her own living room. She sees her husband and her sister have an affair. She sees her dad crawl into bed with her. As she further unravels, the intruder returns with a vengeance.

Finally we get the scene we knew was coming: as the baby grows inside of her, Joyce gets undeniable cravings. She panic-eats an entire container of spaghetti with her hands and rips open a bag of potato chips, which scatter all over her dirty bathrobe. She loudly demands chocolate ice cream and pickles. She’s insatiable. It’s the kind of hunger that can only be experienced by an insane, pregnant woman, girlish figure be damned.

Directed by pornographic film veteran Chuck Vincent, Deranged is mild on sex and graphic violence. Instead it explores what happens when a broken psyche and a knife come together. While Repulsion is and will always be the better film, Deranged still has some great twists and turns. Adult film star Veronica Hart’s turn as Joyce is as melodramatic as it gets. There’s bawling and bottomless lows on one end and manic giggling and dancing on the other. The sheer amount of theatrical shrieking and yelling is impressive. Even Jamie Gillis shoots for the rafters here. In the end, Deranged is a soap opera, only it’s difficult to know what’s real and what’s imagined. At some point you realize just about everything is imagined. But if there’s one thing to take away from this film, it’s to never mess with a pregnant woman.

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