Is 'Deranged' as scary as it should be?

Posted7/26/2012 6:00 AM
  • People in a South Korean city panic when a mysterious parasitic worm causes a national emergency in the horror film "Deranged."

    People in a South Korean city panic when a mysterious parasitic worm causes a national emergency in the horror film "Deranged."

Reel Life mini-review: "Deranged"
It takes just under 30 minutes in Park Jung-woo's South Korea horror tale "Deranged" for authorities to discover why so many emaciated dead bodies have suddenly popped up in lakes, rivers, bathtubs, retention basins and swimming pools.

Turns out that they've come into contact with a water-born parasitic larvae that enters human bodies and grows into slithery snakey things called "horsehair worms" that attach themselves to intestines.

The worms make their hosts so desperately thirsty that they jump into standing water long enough for the aquatic parasites to vacate the body, sucking out all life as they do.

Had "Deranged" been an American movie, Jung-woo would be hailed for creating a horror metaphor for the 2008 economic meltdown that almost destroyed the United States from within.

South Korean pharmaceutical salesman Jae-Hyeok (Kim Myung-min) used to be a prominent professor until he lost his fortune in the stock market. Now a bitter wage earner, he thinks life is unfair.

Until he realizes that his wife and two children are infected with the larvae. Jump-started into hero mode, he desperately tries to find samples of a discontinued drug proven to be the only effective antidote to worms.

"Deranged" takes Jae-Hyeok's Everyman through a nightmare of a nation reduced to panic and shortsighted actions.

Of course, it turns out the worms are hardly nature's revenge; a massive corporate conspiracy concocted the fatal phenomenon to boost sagging profits and meet market expectations.

"Deranged" isn't nearly as horrific as it could have been. (One wonders just what David Cronenberg would have done with ripe parasite material like this.)

It's also not as realistically blanching as Steven Soderbergh's Elgin-shot virus thriller "Contagion."

We get floating bodies and concerned expressions in "Deranged." Some scenes of crazed Koreans jumping into lakes and rivers come off as inadvertently comical.

For the cost of my admission, 2006's "The Host" ranks as the superior South Korean horror tale involving icky things that swim in the Han River.

"Deranged" (originally titled "Killer Parasite") opens at the AMC Showplace in Niles. Not rated. 109 minutes. ★ ★ ½

Married directors talk!
Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, directors of the new movie "Ruby Sparks," recently stopped by Chicago on a publicity tour. We chatted about their romance fantasy concerning a novelist (Paul Dano) whose literary character inexplicably becomes a real woman (screenwriter Zoe Kazan).

DG. What's the principal disadvantage to directing movies with your spouse?

JD. I can't speak to that.

DG. You're saying I loaded the question?

JD. Yes, and we're not going to take that bait!

VF. Well, I was going to say you can't complain to your spouse about your partner, but then I realized I can.

JD. We're very fortunate to love our work and love our family life, so I never feel trapped. I can talk to Valerie about any part of my day. She understands and is empathetic.

VF. Maybe one of the disadvantages is that the Academy (of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) has a hard time understanding directing teams.

JD. But that's changing.

DG. Especially with the Coen brothers' Oscar win for "No Country For Old Men"?

VF. Yes, but it's easier for them to accept brothers rather than husband-and-wife teams.

JD. We're the new repressed minority! Once gay rights have been established, it'll be collaborating couples!

DG. "Ruby Sparks" is really different. It avoids a lot of clichés.

JD. One person described it as "Annie Hall" meets "Frankenstein." We were excited about doing a genre-bending film. I think people appreciate a movie that doesn't follow a standard summer movie formula.

DG. This movie is all about tone, isn't it?

JD. That was a constant task for us, to regulate the tone of the performers, all of them.

VF. What we wanted was an as-true-to-life tone as we could get by getting everything to come off as real as possible and not chasing after either the comedy or the drama.

DG. How does your backgrounds in music affect your choices as movie directors?

JD. The thing that drives us crazy, and it's very common in independent films -- make that all films -- is to throw a pop tune on and let the lyrics tell you what's going on. Or hammer you over the head with what's happening.

We made a choice to go with a big, orchestral score. When there are popular songs, they're all in French!

You're left to experience the story and let the music underscore the emotional life that's on-screen.

Reel Life notes
• Join me on "The ABC7 News" during the 11 a.m. hour on Friday, Aug. 3, when I talk to promising teen competitors in the annual Arlington Heights Teen Film Fest, scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 5, at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights. Admission is free, but you still need tickets. You can reserve them at (847) 577-2121.

• "Qwerty," a romantic comedy from Vernon Hills and Aurora producer Nat Dykeman, plays Saturday, Monday and Wednesday at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St., Chicago. Go to for tickets and schedules.

• The third annual Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival continues through Sunday at the Cutting Hall Performing Arts Center, 150 E. Wood St., Palatine. Go to

• The DeLorean Midwest Connection, one of the oldest DeLorean car clubs, will bring several DeLoreans to the midnight showing (Friday, July 27) of a digitally remastered print of 1985's hit "Back to the Future" at the Tivoli Theater, 5021 Highland Ave., Downers Grove. Admission costs $5. To go for tickets.

• Daily Herald Film Critic Dann Gire's column runs Fridays in Time out!

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