Follow TV Tropes


Film / Criminally Insane

Go To
The quintessential Fat Bitch.

"My heart is just fine as long as my stomach is not empty."

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 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 locking 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 that she order more from the local grocery store. When the teenage 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 Rosalie's 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 (1980), 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 to 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.
  • Asshole Victim: John, Rosalie's abusive ex-boyfriend and pimp, is the least sympathetic of Ethel's victims.
  • Big Bad: Ethel Janowski, a madwoman who kills anybody who gets between her and food.
  • Big Eater: The entire source of Ethel's insanity.
  • Curiosity Killed the Cast: Doctor Gerard barging into the house in search of Grandma Janowski, and John's and Rosalie's complaints about the smells emanating from the locked room making them threaten to kick in the door (Ethel even points out before killing Rosalie that she should have just ignored it).
  • Domestic Abuse: John is extremely abusive to Rosalia both physically and emotionally.
    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.
  • Fat Bastard: Ethel is morbidly obese and will kill people for the pettiest of reasons.
  • Mummies at the Dinner Table: Ethel props John's 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: A gender-flipped version: Ethel kills her grandmother, her 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 colored.
    "You and that hebe are trying to starve me to death!"
  • Psychopathic Womanchild: Ethel is what happens when you combine the selfishness and impulsiveness of a spoiled child with the size and strength of an adult.
  • 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.
  • The '70s: The movie is set in 1973.
  • The Sociopath: Ethel Janowski, who believes that murder is a justified response to people trying to regulate her compulsive eating.

Its sequel provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Berserk Button: Hope denying Ethel pretzels.
    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.
  • 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.
  • 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. invoked
  • 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 difference 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.

Alternative Title(s): Crazy Fat Ethel