‘Bates Motel’ Could Be as Heart-Pounding as ‘Psycho’

Alfred Hitchcock may no longer be walking this earth, but his cinematic influence has yet to disappear entirely.  Directors of horror films will still say they are going for that Hitchcock-like sense of terror and tension, and other directors simply decide to remake his stories entirely.  We’ve seen several well-known remakes already, including Mission: Impossible II in 2000, Flightplan in 2005, and Disturbia in 2007. Now it’s time for Hitchcock’s Psycho, possibly his most famous title, to get some new attention.

A&E recently announced their plan to produce a series called Bates Motel, a prequel to Hitchcock’s Psycho.  Coming from executive producers Carlton Cuse (Lost) and Kerry Ehrin (Friday Night Lights), the series will chronicle the relationship between Norman Bates, the famous serial killer, and his mother Norma. It will reveal how he became the murderer we know him as today. Cuse said: “We are incredibly excited to start production on Bates Motel. We think our take on the Bates family will both be surprising and subvert expectations.  We can’t wait for people to check in” [The Hollywood Reporter].

Your son is gonna grow up crazy, woman.

Though the series will not debut until next year, plenty of decisions have already been made.  A&E announced fairy early on, for example, that Vera Farmiga (The Departed) will be playing the role of Norma Bates.  TV Guide also announced two weeks ago that child star Freddie Highmore snagged the role of young Norman. You may remember Highmore as the wide-eyed, innocent-looking chap from Finding Neverland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Bates Motel will also star Max Thieriot as Dylan, “Norma’s oldest son and the big brother to Norman who is described as a petulant and rebellious James Dean-type” [The Hollywood Reporter].

As a Hitchcock fan, I am ashamed to admit I have not had the opportunity or made the time to see Psycho yet.  I have adored Rear Window for years, marveled at the three-shot-only The Rope, flinched at the heights of Vertigo, and mentally pictured Hitchcock filming North by Northwest when I visited Mount Rushmore my sophomore year of college.  And yet after all of this, I have not seen Psycho.  It’s also a degradation considering I’ve been at two of its filming locations – the old Jefferson Hotel building in Phoenix, Arizona, and the I-99 between Fresno and Bakersfield, California.

There are several reasons I’m determined to see Hitchcock’s classic and then watch the A&E prequel.  First of all, because I’m one of those people who generally wants to see or read the first version of a story before I watch another interpretation of it, I’m going to have to add Psycho to my list.  Fortunately, I have plenty of time to get to it since Bates Motel is not coming out until next year.  However, since I’ve managed to avoid the original film for 25 years, I better not just assume I’ll “get to it” given another year, either.  I’ll have to be diligent this time around.

In addition, I cannot wait to see Freddie Highmore’s interpretation of Norman Bates.  Freddie fascinated me from the first time I saw him act in Finding Neverland, and has not lost my respect since.  Definitely impressive is a young boy who can consistently hold his own against a veteran favorite like Johnny Depp.  His role in Bates Motel will reveal much about how he’s developed as a young man and as an actor.

I only have one trepidation regarding the new series, though, and that has to do with Cuse’s comment that it will surprise and “subvert expectations.”  To me, that implies, “We wanted to try something new that may not have anything to do with the original intent of the previous director/writer.”  I automatically think of films like The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor that were intended to be in the same “spirit” as the first film(s) but failed miserably.  My one consolation is that the teaser poster released for Bates Motel produces the same chilling aura as when someone mentions the word Psycho.  Hopefully these artists’ skills of capturing that Hitchcockian atmosphere transfer over into the entire cast and crew, as well.

Bates Motel promo poster
This looks promising.

Seeing classic filmmakers’ works be appreciated, copied, and referenced in this day and age gives me hope that television and Hollywood magnates will not altogether forget their past so we can continue to pass on these stories to our children.  Hopefully, this is the way that A&E is viewing its Bates Motel, and if so I’ll be ready to turn on the television.  I just need to make sure to add Psycho to my “things to watch” list this week.

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