Criminally Insane (also known as Crazy Fat Ethel) is a slasher-ish horror film released in 1975.
Institutionalized for an indeterminate amount of time due to suffering from a number of problems, the most prominent of which is are her violent mood swings, the morbidly obese Ethel Janowski is eventually released into the care of her grandmother, despite the protests of one Doctor Gerard, who suggests that Ethel come in four times a week for electroshock therapy. Once home, the surly Ethel starts stuffing her face, eating her poor grandmother out of house and home. Becoming fed up with Ethel's gorging, granny empties the refrigerator and locks all the food away in the cupboards, telling Ethel that it's high time she went on a diet, whether she wants to or not. Not taking this well, Ethel proceeds to stab her grandmother to death, and cuts the key to the pantry locks out her cold dead hand.
With no one around to stop her, Ethel goes on an eating binge, and quickly runs out of food, necessitating she order more from the local grocery store. When the teenaged delivery boy shows up with the food, and demands payment for it and other overdue bills, a frustrated Ethel murders him, barely having time to lock the body in her grandmother's room with the old woman's rapidly decaying corpse before her prostitute sister, Rosalie, shows up, needing a place to stay. Begrudgingly giving Rosalie, and her abusive pimp and boyfriend John, room and board, Ethel spins a lie about how their grandmother has gone away to visit someone, and beats Doctor Gerard to death when he stops by asking questions about where Granny Janowski is, and why Ethel has not gone to her scheduled treatments. With the bodies piling up (not to mention smelling terrible) and her housemates and the police becoming suspicious, Ethel starts to crack even more. What is a fat, unstable woman who just wants to eat in peace to do? Oh yeah, kill everyone!
A bit of a Cult Classic, Criminally Insane had a poorly received shot-on-video sequel thirteen years after its initial release, though much like Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 and the sequels to The Boogeyman, it consists primarily of footage recycled from its predecessor. What little new footage there is has Ethel being dumped in a lax halfway house due extreme budget cuts to the asylum she was placed in, and it isn't long until her appetite and murderous urges get the best of her.
In 2005, both Criminally Insane films got a DVD release by Shock-O-Rama Cinema, coming packaged with the vampire flick Satan's Black Wedding. While the sequel is barebones, Criminally Insane was bestowed with a commentary track and an interview with the director, a producer, and its star, Priscilla Alden.
A remake of the first film, using the alternate title Crazy Fat Ethel, was released in 2016.
The first film provides examples of the following tropes:
- An Arm and a Leg: After the smell becomes too overbearing, Ethel decides to dispose of her victims by chopping up the bodies and dumping them elsewhere.
- Big Bad: Ethel Janowski, a madwoman who kills anybody who gets between her and food.
- Big Eater: The entire source of Ethel's insanity.
- Coitus Ensues: Rosalie and John get hot and heavy on the couch with Ethel sitting nearby.
- Curiosity Killed the Cast: Doctor Gerard barging into the house in search Grandma Janowski, and John and Rosalie's complaints about the smells emanating from the locked room making them threaten to knock in the door (Ethel even points out before killing Rosalie that she should have just ignored it).
- Daylight Horror: Every murder except the first.
- Domestic Abuser: John.Rosalie, I'm going to tell you the truth for once, okay? You need a good beating every once in a while. All women do. And you especially.
- Easily Forgiven: After John tells her that she needs to be abused every once in a while, Rosalie accepts his apology and goes back to having drugs and sex with him.
- Eat the Evidence: Unable to get rid of the bodies by burying them or dumping them at sea, Ethel resorts to this.
- Grievous Bottley Harm: After a deliveryman refuses to give her the food she ordered, Ethel smashes a bottle over his head, then stabs him with a piece of the shattered remains.
- I Love the Dead: Ethel sleeps next to John's corpse for a night.
- I'm a Humanitarian: The film ends with a detective, called after a neighbor finds a severed hand in the trunk of Ethel's car, discovering Ethel in the middle of gnawing on a severed arm.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: The grandmother's death.
- Improvised Weapon: Doctor Gerard is bludgeoned with what appears to be a candlestick holder.
- Insane Equals Violent: Who knew slight paranoia over food could lead to serial murder?
- Knife Nut: Both a regular knife, and a meat cleaver.
- Lady Drunk: The briefly mentioned Mrs. Janowski.
- Mummies at the Dinner Table: Ethel props John and Rosalie's corpses up in a bed, and talks to them while scarfing down some potatoes.
- Murder Is the Best Solution: Food locked away? Kill the key holder. Don't have enough to pay the grocery bill? Kill the delivery boy. Sister and her boyfriend complaining about the rank odors coming from the always locked bedroom? Kill them.
- Nailed to the Wagon: Grandma Janowski decides to clean out the fridge, and lock all the food in the cupboards so Ethel can't get at it. Big mistake.
- No Ending: The film literally ends with a detective finding Ethel partaking in cannibalism.
- Overcrank: Faked in the scene where John smacks Rosalie by having it done again in a much slower manner.
- Pater Familicide: Ethel kills her grandmother, sister, and her sister's boyfriend.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: Ethel is quite an anti-Semite in the film and when it's theorized the missing delivery boy may have been robbed, she suggests the mugger was a colored."You and that hebe are trying to starve me to death!"
- Punk in the Trunk: Ethel stuffs the sack containing her grandmother's dismembered remains into the trunk of her own car.
- Right Through the Wall: "Sometimes I could hear you. I know what you were doing with John, Rosalie."
- The Scourge of God: Rosalie is a prostitute who snorts crack, while John is a misogynistic, violent ass who also partakes in recreational cocaine usage.
- Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: Or hack, in this case.
- The Sociopath: Ethel Janowski, who believes that murder is a justified response to people trying to regulate her compulsive eating.
- Spiritual Successor: The Death Nurse duology, two films also directed by Nick Millard, and starring Priscilla Alden as a deranged murderess. It also helps that both films reuse footage from this film as stock footage.
- Trailers Always Spoil: It shows most of the deaths, for instance.
- Your Cheating Heart: One of the reasons why John and Rosalie briefly broke up.
Its sequel provides examples of the following tropes:
- Berserk Button: Hope denying Ethel pretzels.Ethel: YOU GIVE ME THOSE PRETZELS, GRANNY!
Hope: I will not.
(Cue Hope getting murdered)
- Blackmail: Having seen Ethel kill the orderly, Edgar blackmails her into giving him her desserts for the next month.
- Blatant Lies: The opening credits, since they're stock footage from the first film, with nearly three-thirds of the cast not in the film.
- Bond One-Liner:Ethel: (after killing Hope) Looks like I just lost hope. (laughs)
- Chase Scene: A rather Narmful one, with Ethel chasing Doctor Stevens through the halfway house. It involves Ethel chasing him around a dinner table — several times.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Greg, who believes himself to be an animal and collects insects from the ground so he can eat them.
- Curiosity Killed the Cast: After being out of touch with Hope for two days, Doctor Stevens drops by the halfway house to see what is wrong, and gets knifed by Ethel.
- Dead Person Impersonation: The film ends with Ethel pretending to be Hope Bartholomew, the halfway house director.
- Dream Sequence: These are used to show most of the previous film's footage.
- Flashback: To the first film.
- Improvised Weapon: Hope has her head bashed in with... something that looks like a goblet.
- Leave the Camera Running: This movie could win some kind of award for this. It has Padding upon Padding despite being only 60 minutes long.
- Medium Blending: The film was shot on a cheap video camera (complete with a motor being picked up on the mic), which intercuts with the original that's shot on film. The different is striking.
- Orderlies Are Creeps: The unnamed one feeds the halfway house patients dog food, and taunts Ethel by eating chocolate bars in front of her.
- Police are Useless: Two murders at the halfway house and Ethel isn't even a suspect.
- Stock Footage: Roughly a quarter of the film.
- Wall Crawl: Greg is convinced he is a lizard, and thinks he can do this.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: It isn't revealed what happened to Greg after Ethel kills Dr. Stevens.