Bates Motel, or A History of Psycho
Some info on the whole Psycho Universe:
When Robert Bloch had his book Psycho published in 1969 he was telling a story about Norman Bates, a man who had the worst Oedipus complex of all time! In truth, Bloch partially based this character on the serial killer (he’s not technically a serial killer as he only killed two people) and ghoul (dude who digs up dead bodies) Ed Gein. Ed Gein was so attached to his mother that he dug her up when she died and kept her in the house to keep him company. He would also dress up like her and pretended to be her. Gein was also the inspiration for Leatherface (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and Buffalo Bill (Silence of the Lambs).
Now to the movies:
Psycho (1960) Directed by the immortal Alfred Hitchcock! This movie tops AFI’s ‘Top 100 Thrilling Movies of All Time’, and many of People’s top movie lists. It may not have been the first slasher film, but it was close, and maybe the best. Hitchcock’s movie followed the book fairly well, much better than any other adaption made in the last ten years, easily.
Not as well known, but touted by much of the horror community as one of the best sequels of all time. Bloch penned a script for the sequel it was rejected by the studios. Bloch turned that script into a follow up novel to Psycho, but the movie is nothing like the book. In the movie Psycho 2 (1983), we see Norman Bates released from a mental institution after 22 years. Norman struggles with his new life as he’s harassed by Lila Loomis (Marion Cranes’ sister from the first movie). Soon Norman loses touch with reality and seems to fall into his old habits. In the book version, Norman escapes the asylum dressed as a nurse and goes to Hollywood. Much of the story is a stab at Hollywood. The movies Scream 3 and In Dreams borrow elements from this book.
While not quite as good as the second, this is still a solid sequel. Norman is still living in the house above Bates Motel and still has a few skeletons in his closet (literally). A reporter begins to harass Norman as she tries to write a story against releasing the mentally ill back into society. Soon we see someone dressed up as Norma Bates running around killing people. Is it Norman? Is it the reporter? Is it maybe Norma back from the dead (no, no it’s not!)? Can Norman ever lead a normal life? The third and final book Bloch wrote again had nothing to do with the movie. Bloch came out with the book Psycho House in 1990. He based it off of a TV movie that was shopped around as a pilot for a TV series called Bates Motel. In this story Norman is dead and leaves the house to a man he was friends with in the asylum he was committed to. Of course strange things start happening and drama ensues! Nothing like the current Bates Motel on A&E.
This is where I get to my point of this whole article. Psycho 4 was as much a prequel as it was a sequel. Norman goes into great detail about his relationship with his mother. I really feel that this movie should have been the basis for Bates Motel. In this movie we find Bates calling in to a radio talk program to discuss his underlying urge to kill his wife. At this point Bates is married to a nurse who is pregnant with his child. Norman is concerned that his child might inherit his mental illness and considers killing his wife when she gets home. He tells of his father’s death when he was six, and his mother’s abusive behavior and struggles with borderline personality disorder.
Here’s why Bates Motel is doing it wrong.
Both Bates’ mother, and Ed Gein’s mother (who Bates was based off of) were overbearing puritanical women. They violently sheltered their children from everything. All of this resulted in broken boys with Oedipus complexes, and an abnormal obsession with death.
Bates Motel is a watchable show if you can ignore its ties to Psycho. It’s decent drama!
What would have made it better would have been if it was:
- Set in the 40’s
- Norma was completely unstable and overbearing.
- No brother, no girl friends, no pot farms!
- If it was produced by Mick Garris