It seems like every time I turn on the TV there is a commercial for a remake of a movie or show. While many will argue that most of these remakes are bad, (I agree 90 percent of the time) there are instances when producers, writers and directors take an idea and make it their own.
I believe A&E’s Bates Motel has done that.
I am a huge Alfred Hitchcock fan, so when I think about the original Psycho it is hard to imagine it modernized without being repulsed by director Gus Van Sant’s attempt to do that in 1998 with Vince Vaughn taking the helm as the lead Norman Bates. While Van Sant’s interpretation of the movie is an insult to the original work of art from Hitchcock and star Anthony Perkins, I do suggest people to watch it.Watching a remake of a classic film like Psycho will help grow your appreciation for the film even more.
But, back to my original point. Bates Motel is, in my opinion, a successful modernization of the idea Hitchcock created. Unlike Van Sant, the creators of Bates Motel took the basis of Hitchcock’s Psycho; the hotel, the characters and the murders and created their own story.
Bates Motel tells the story of Norman Bates, his mother Norma, his brother Dylan and the corrupt town of White Pine Bay. It is a prequel to the story that Hitchcock tells.
While it is not a direct remake of the movie, it helps to define certain aspects of the movie. The audience is learning more and more about Norman and Norma’s relationship and how Norman will eventually turn in to the awkward, motel killer.
Bates Motel premiered last March, and the pilot episode is one of the best I have seen. It hooks you right off the bat with unanswered intrigue, questions you’re dying to have answered and edge of the seat moments.
The storyline and concept of the show itself was enough to interest me, but the acting is one of the main reasons I keep tuning in.
Freddie Highmore, the cute little kid from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or as I like to think of it, the movie where Johnny Depp atrociously tries to become Willy Wonka (but I guess that’s what I should have expected from Tim Burton), plays Norman Bates in his teen years. Highmore is an amazing Norman Bates, now I won’t go as far to say that he is better or equal to Perkins’ turn as the character, but he comes close. With Highmore as the male lead of the show I am not left wanting anything from his rendition of Norman. He brings it all to the table and I now understand how Norman Bates becomes the sinister creep that runs the old motel. Bates Motel even touches base on how and when Norman’s taxidermy interests began. One of the most memorable parts from when I first saw Psycho are Norman’s stuffed birds that are displayed in the office of the motel. The show introduces his interest in taxidermy in an innocent way, and slowly shows how the hobby escalates into an obsession. Overall I think I would give Highmore an A- for his rendition of the character made famous by Perkins.
Now for Mother herself, Ms. Norma Bates played by the extremely talented Vera Farmiga. Creepiness must run in the Farmiga family as her daughter, Taissa stars in the FX series American Horror Story. Fans of Psycho never get to experience the real Norma, just the psychosis left imprinted in Norman’s mind. With Bates Motel we see how flawed of a person Norma actually is and how that is impacting every single thing her son does. Norma and Norman’s relationship has Oedipal Complex written all over it. While Norma is the instigator in many of the inappropriate, incestuous situations, the audience can see that Norman buys into it. He was taught by his mother that sex is something only evil women do, and that she should be the only woman in his life. Farmiga gives the perfect up and down performance to make any sane person want to go crazy; she even spins Norman into many outbursts for her obsessive, ridiculous antics. Farmiga is able to bring this character to life through her ability to develop different versions of Norma for different people in the community. There is the Norma that people think is the nicest, innocent person in town, there is Mother, who is manipulative, demanding and capable of guilt tripping anyone, there is the Norma who is a flirt and can attract any man and finally there is the Norma who deep down inside might actually be a nice person, but as the series goes on we find out more and more about her past and why she has developed many of her unstable tendencies. Rightfully so, Farmiga was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series at this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards. Although she didn’t win, I think it’s safe to say I would definitely give her an A for her creation of Norma Bates, who in most of the Psycho movies is never actually on screen, she just appears through voiceovers from Norman himself.
There are way too many supporting characters to describe and bring to the forefront of this show, but they are all wonderful. I truly believe this cast has developed characters that fit into the corruptly run town in which they live.
The show is rated TV14 because of some violence, drug content and sexual situations, but I do not consider it to be a show that will give you nightmares. Much like the movie, the story brings more mystery, suspense and thrilling aspects rather than horror.
The series is in the early stages of its second season and airs on A&E on Monday nights at 9 p.m., and the entire first season is available on Netflix.
I suggest anyone who is interested in drama, suspense or mystery check out this show. In no way does it taint or ruin Psycho, in my opinion it enhances it.
Michelle Meunier Staff Writer