Zombies, a docu-horror based on an infamous mama’s boy killer, and a killer croc! I take a look at Garden of the Dead, Deranged, and Eaten Alive.
GARDEN OF THE DEAD (1972)
This is basically a 58-minute prison movie in which a bunch of convicts that inhaled an experimental substance plan a prison break, are chased and shot at by cops, are then buried where they were killed, and minutes later return from the dead as zombies. Only instead of craving flesh, these zombies pretty much just want to guzzle down that toxic substance. WTF?
Aside from the horrible music that sounds like something out of Get Smart, the movie has a little love story side plot between a convict and a waitress, some old skool scenes of zombies crawling from the grave, creepy undead makeup, and zombies that are fast and strong years before it was trendy.
If you’ve seen every other zombie film that came in the ten years between Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead except this one, just fucking watch it so you can say you’ve seen them all. What’s one more mindless hour of your life spent with zombies?
Released 8 months before Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Deranged sticks closer to its source material—real life killer Ed Gein. This is basically a fictionalized account of Gein’s story, with the character name changed to Ezra Cobb, plus an onscreen narrator that appears a couple of times throughout the film like an out-of-place Rod Serling.
We first get the back story of Cobb, who cared for his crippled mother until she died. While alive, she filled his head with the idea of evil sluts (aka: all women but her), so after the only woman a boy can trust is buried, he digs her up and brings her back home. Nope, not a rip-off of Psycho – simply using the same real-life source material.
Deranged gets weird fast and has some great horror elements. There’s a gruesome scene of Cobb dissecting a corpse’s head to patch up the rotting corpse of his mother (make sure to get the uncut version of the film).
After going on a date with a woman, he talks to his mom’s corpse about liking the woman’s fat, but fearing getting stuck in it. He then does a séance with the woman, who pretends to be channeling the spirit of her dead husband so she can tell Cobb indirectly to bang her. Naturally, this offer of sex unleashes his murderous instinct.
Next, we get the longest, best sequence in the film, with Cobb having a woman over for a dinner party… where all the other women at the table are corpses. Plus, he’s dressed in drag and wearing a woman’s face. Classic horror for sure and again, eight months before TCM, but we’re left wondering, did he dig up these bodies or are they women he killed and we just didn’t get to see it on celluloid?
And that’s where the movie falls short. What’s there is pretty freaky, but you’re left wanting more. Cobb kidnaps one final victim, which leads to a chase scene and then an oddly abrupt end to the film. It’s almost like Deranged is just a “Best of Ed Gein” anthology than a full movie – if you’re going to change names and create a fictionalized account, why not fluff it up to better suit the horror genre you’re targeting (aka: Psycho, TCM)? Considering this film had to compete with TCM back in 1974, it’s no surprise this is the lesser known film. But it’s a must for those fascinated with the real story of Ed Gein, and it’s a great companion piece to watch with the 2000 film Ed Gein starring Steve Railsback and Carrie Snodgress.
EATEN ALIVE (1976)
Tobe Hooper’s follow-up to Texas Chainsaw Massacre is pretty much Psycho…with a crocodile! Veteran actor Neville Brand plays a wacky man who feeds guests at his hotel to his pet crocodile, which inhabits the swamp right on the other side of the hotel porch.
Eaten Alive is more dark and campy than it is horrific or frightening, with loads of brutal kills. Robert Englund appears as a sleazy dude who takes women to the hotel to fuck them.
Texas Chainsaw final girl Marilyn Burns shows up at the hotel with her weirdo husband and her daughter (Real Housewife Kyle Richards two years before she was Lindsey in Halloween). And the one and only Morticia Addams (Carolyn Jones) plays a brothel madam!
Highlights include every kill. Neville Brand is deliciously sadistic as he takes victims down with a scythe, reacting with shock and horror when they’re dead, and then giddily throwing them off his porch to feed the croc.
The croc is seen just enough in the dark nighttime swamp to make its presence ominous and disturbing.
Marilyn Burns is physically tortured just about as much as she was by Leatherface and family, and is pretty much wrapped in a sack once again to be beaten.
And even little Kyle Richards is chased and terrorized! Fun for the whole family.