A Prelude To A Horror Fan Checking Into The Bates Motel

norman bates

After much deliberation and hesitation, along with an immense amount of word of mouth from both the horror community and people I run into on a daily basis, it has been decided. The next show to be covered on The Deadhouse as part of the Small Screen Terror portion of the site will be Bates Motel. I thought it best to do a bit of an introduction, covering a few topics related to this and why I have been so hesitant to dive into the show.

First things first, this does not have an effect on the on-going albeit delayed coverage of From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series. I just got to a point where it felt the show would be better viewed having the opportunity to view as many episodes as wanted without waiting. Those reviews will be coming up this week and will continue until the first season has ended.

But the main part of this little “prelude” is to discuss the reason I have been so hesitant to check out the show. Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is inarguably one of the most influential horror films ever made. Upon its release in 1960, it not only changed the landscape of the horror genre, but film as a whole. Up until that point, horror movies always had some sort of supernatural tint to it, a la Dracula. Never before had the monster been a human, let alone one as sympathetic as Anthony Perkins’ portrayal of Norman Bates.

Most people don’t know that Bates was not always a sympathetic character. In Robert Bloch’s original novel, Norman is a middle aged overweight alcoholic who no one would think twice about being a serial killer. When Hitchcock bought the rights to Bloch’s work (anonymously I might add), he and screenwriter Joseph Stefano turned him into a much different character. Many will argue, myself included that this small change had a huge impact on the story, putting it on a whole new level. While most of the other aspects of the novel remained unchanged, the death of Mary Crane (changed to Marion in the film due to a real person with the name living in Phoenix at the time) was also made more elaborate. For those of you who have never had the chance to read the novel, her death is literally described in one line.

But I digress. Everyone has seen Psycho at one point or another in their lifetime. I believe the first time I ever saw the film was when I was about 10 or 11 years old and first getting into the horror genre. I saw it aired on television, but of course, given Hitchcock’s masterful direction very little, if any, censorship was required. Although I did not fully become engrossed with the film at that age, I certainly recognized how important of a film it was. It wasn’t until a repeat viewing in a high school class that I would become enamored with the life of Norman Bates. Through the following years, I would try to soak up as much information as possible about the film as I could. I have read several books about the film and the impact it had on society as a whole. I have watched the sequels, and even somehow endured the ill-advised Gus Van Sant 1998 remake. I own and have read not only the original novel by Bloch but also the sequel he released that is unrelated to the film series. I have unfortunately not been able to find a copy of Psycho House his third book in the series, as it is indeed a hard find. I am a huge fan of the sequels, and would actually rank the incredibly under rated Psycho II as one of the greatest sequels ever made, not limiting it to just the horror genre. Even the not-so-loved Anthony Perkins’ directed Psycho III has its bright points for me.

While obviously nothing related to the series comes anywhere close to the 1960 original masterpiece, it is a highly regarded canon to which many horror fans hold sacred. I in no way claim to be a Psycho expert but I do hold a very dear place in my heart for it. The mythology around Norman Bates and his struggles is monumental, and while certainly different than the legends tied to Friday The 13th’s Jason Voorhees or A Nightmare On Elm Street’s Freddy Krueger, one could argue it is actually more significant. As many know, Norman Bates was based upon real life serial killer Ed Gein. The similarities between the two men was partly coincidental as many aspects of Gein’s crimes were actually unreported at the time of Psycho’s publishing. This puts Bates in a whole different pantheon of horror villain.

When Bates Motel was first announced, most of the horror community let out a collective sigh. Then something strange happened. The show began airing….and actually appeared to be good? It looked to be the first in a group of shows based on classic horror-based material that broke the general mold on TV shows and wasn’t afraid to touch on subject matter usually avoided by the networks. I started hearing from people that the show was worth watching, yet still I avoided it due to some of the changes, such as it taking place in modern day. I heard that in one episode, a young Norman Bates is playing on his iPhone! Norman Bates should never have an iPhone!

Finally, after much coercion, I have relented. I am going to give in and give the show a shot. Many people have told me to try and enjoy the show based on its own merits, and attempt to disconnect from the series I know and love. Whether I will be able to do this, is up in the air at best. But I wanted to post my thoughts to let it be known in the event that the reviews do stop after a few episodes. I truly hope that the show does open up a new way to enjoy the Psycho mythos, but it can also be hard to accept a huge change to something that one holds so dearly.

Look for the Bates Motel Small Screen Terror reviews to start soon.

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