Comparing Psycho to Bates Motel
One of Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous films is his horror classic, Psycho made in 1960. It was a seamless mystery that kills off the protagonist in the first twenty minutes and gives a murderer that you can’t quite put a finger on. Was he really that creepy, or just lonely and awkward? Anthony Perkins played Norman Bates back then, and now, in 2013 the character of Norman is being brought back. Bates Motel which premiered on A&E is supposed to be a prequel, taking place at the time that Mrs. Bates bought the motel and Normal is a teenager in high school.
Teenage Norman is played by child star Freddie Highmore who was in such iconic roles as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), August Rush (2007) and Finding Neverland (2004). At the point in time of Bates Motel he has yet to become obsessed with birds and taxidermy. His mother Norma Bates, played by Vera Farmiga (Orphan, Up in the Air, The Departed) is not quite as overbearing as is suggested in 1960, but there are hints of what she will become.
Sadly the only good thing about Bates Motel is the cast, which have all done memorable work in films. The rest of the show was rather flat and a shame to the cult classic. The show is supposed to be a prequel to the days before Norman was a serial killer, but the whole thing takes place in modern day which seems more like laziness than creative license. For all the money they spent on getting nice cars and smart phones, A&E didn’t ask for a period piece, which would have been more appropriate. Also, likely in order to remain within the boundaries and stereotypes of regular cable, the psychology was lacking and there were flocks of girls instantly taking interest in the new kid, Norman.
Creator Anthony Cipriano is not new to the industry, but has not done anything notable and was probably trying to make his mark by taking on the past of what could have possibly been the creepiest mother-son dynamic on television. But he was too cautious, likely worried that audiences wouldn’t respond to what would be received as an incestuous relationship. But anyone interested in watching would be expecting it, and there are probably tons of ways to handle it. Cipriano tried to shove too much information in too little time. Also, making Norman into an unwitting ladies man, and by the end of the first episode might as well have two girlfriends, reflects more of a guy’s hopes and dreams than what would be allowed in any sort of reality outside of bad teen dramas.
In regards to Norman’s mother, Farmiga seems to be trying to do her best with a lacking role. Early on it shows that any homicidal tendencies Norman may develop are not too far from the tree. Too much is being held up by what audiences know she will become, and her character doesn’t make a lot of sense. By the time Hitchcock met her, she was a corpse, so there was plenty of room to figure out what she would have been like in life, but she wound up being half a stereotype with a thing for screaming and knives.
The only other compliment I can afford to give Bates Motel is the accuracy of the set, particularly the motel and the old house on the hill. If I didn’t know better, I would say that they got the same set from 1960. Sadly, because of the whole “modern prequel” the whole thing is ridiculously out of place with the shiny cars and fashionable flock of partying high school classmates. Had Cipriano gone to a different network or gotten a better budget, maybe that would have saved what would have been an interesting series. A good cast can’t pull all the weight.
Bates Motel gets 2 motel rooms in the middle of nowhere out of 5