Bates Motel is the latest in a long lineage of sequels, prequels, remakes of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film Psycho. I have to admit beforehand I was dreading a prequel to one of the most iconic films of all-time never mind a contemporary prequel. . It’s one of the better ones and the biggest screener surprises of recently memory.
The show is about the high-school years of everyone’s favourite crossdressing serial killer Norman Bates. Freddie Highmore who most well known for playing Charlie Bucket in Tim Burton’s misguided “re-imagining” of Charlie & The Chocolate Factory plays him. Highmore gives a fine performance as Norman Bates taking aspects of Anthony Perkins’ ironic performance but updating it. He makes you feel sorry for Norman even when he is a real dick especially to Emma Decody (Olivia Cooke) who has a massive crush on Norman
Norman’s mother is played by Vera Farmiga and has shown her range in stuff in Up in the Air and The Departed. It’s interesting to see how she controls Norman’s every inch and you can see the seeds of how he will come. Ian Hart has a great supporting role as Emma Decody father who teaches Norman taxidermy.
The show is heavily influenced by David Lynch’s pioneering TV show Twin Peaks. Not only doe it have a strangeness of that show but the show’s creator Carlton Cuse changed the setting to the Pacific Northwest and admitted it’s influence. It also has the soapiness of Twin Peaks (especially in the middle of it’s 2nd season) but it works partly due to the strong performances. Psycho was very importantly a part of the genre of California Gothic along a film like Spider-Baby, which is very different to Southern Gothic.
Overall it’s a very solid prequel to one of the most ironic films ever made and shouldn’t work at all but due to enough weird twists and turns, good writing and solid performances it works very well. The season ends on a brilliant cliffhanger and sets up a second season, which promises to be even darker.
*** 1/2 Stars
TV, Mystery, Thriller
Universal Home Entertainment
Vera Farmiga, Freddie Highmore, Max Thieriot
Buy: Bates Motel: Season 1 [DVD] or [Blu-ray] [Region Free] [Amazon]