Crazy as Hell  (2002) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Crazy as Hell is a low budget film from the same general genre - "supernatural surprise-ending mystery" - as The Sixth Sense, Angel Heart, and The Others. It was shot in a couple of weeks on digital video, but looks good and is acted with some real flair by the two leads. It's not a bad watch at all.

A compassionate but egotistical psychiatrist believes that modern psychiatry relies too much on medication. He believes that he can treat many forms of mental illness, even some forms of severe psychosis, with drug-free psychotherapy. He is given a chance to test his theories in practice. He's been given temporary control of an entire ward of a state mental hospital for a demonstration of his techniques, and he has a documentary film crew following his every move. Things seem to be going well until a sinister patient shows up, whose delusion is that he thinks he is Satan. And maybe he is. Or maybe he isn't. Or maybe it doesn't matter, because there is an ever deeper secret hidden in the story.

The plot was satisfactory. The surprise ending had me thinking "not that again", but I didn't really see it coming because the film exercised some good magician's patter and had me thinking about other matters.

What raised the film a cut above straight-to-vid fare was the depth of its thought process. In essence, it asks an edgy question: "can compassion be evil?". The hot-shot doctor tends to see patients as ways to prove his own genius, but he does demonstrate genuine concern for them as well as a desire to see them get better. But is his compassion and individual attention really just harming people with serious mental illness, people who were actually better off in the mass-production world of over-medicated mental institutions? I don't know the answer to that, but the film makes a persuasive case that compassion mixed with ego can sometimes be a harmful combination, as the presidency of Jimmy Carter often demonstrated. We find out that in the doctor's past he tried to treat his own daughter with love and compassion when he probably should have listened to his colleagues who recommended medication. Her case ended up in tragedy.

The film was scripted by Jeremy Leven from his own novel. He's the same guy who wrote Don Juan DeMarco and Creator, two films which I enjoyed. This film is far less sentimental than either of those, but equally thoughtful.

If you want to learn about the project in detail, here is the official press kit, which is extremely rich with information


There is a very dark sex scene. There may have been a breast flashed in that scene, but I couldn't see it. There was a male butt, which was probably a body double for Eriq LaSalle.

There is a scene at a sex club in which some extras are seen topless in the darkly-lit background.

not yet on home media

Tell ya what - it isn't a great film, but it is excellent considering the budget and shooting schedule, and I enjoyed it. Eriq LaSalle, who directed and starred, may become a great director if he ever devotes his attention to that profession full time. The only reason he should not direct full time is that he has such a remarkably charismatic presence as an actor.

The Critics Vote

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. Voting results: IMDb voters score it a respectable 6.8/10


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, C. Quite a good entertainment movie delivered on a small budget in a hurry. Good performances, a pretty good script, and a very thoughtful premise. The solid 6.8 at IMDb is no fluke - I enjoyed it, even though the surprise ending was too familiar. If you like supernatural mysteries, you'll find it quite satisfactory.

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