Bates Motel on A & E

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We’re going to take a break from all the philosophizing for a minute – there’s just too much news in the horror universe right now! We’ll get back to the textbooks soon, I promise. Amazing Stories will bring you the most current news, as well as looking at classics and masterpieces. We’re looking for all the ways that fandom has flowered and blossomed in the 21st century. We will dig up ALL the best horror, sci-fi and fantasy, and lay it steaming upon your table.

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It came as a surprise when A & E announced that it would be doing a television series based on the early life of Norman Bates and his Mother, the gruesome twosome of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Instead of merely attempting a man-behind-the-monster adaptation, Bates Motel imagines Norman Bates as a teenager in present times. Some may be aghast; another classic remade in the modern style? Is nothing sacred?

The series was quick to start a series of sub-plots, to differentiate it from the original. It starts off with the death of Norman Bates’ father, and he and his mother moving to the infamous house behing the hotel, in the fictional town of White Pine Bay, Or.  to “start over”. Their idyllic fresh start was cut short with some unexpected and brutal event, rather graphically depicted, that caused QUITE a stir. and was the first indicator that this series would be very different from the understated and atmospheric original; a clear illustration of modern horror, with access to vivid and graphic violence. It’s a double-edged that every modern horror enthusiast must deal with.

Bates Motel shows Norman, excellently depicted by Freddie Highmore, starting High School, immediately and surprisingly popular with the ladies (“Your eyes are still deep pools in the middle of a concrete world,” says the popular girl Bradley Martin, played by Nicola Peltz). You can watch Norman trying to break away from his domineering mother Norma, played by Vera Farmiga, who plays her role to such effect that you can’t help but hate her. Norma and Norman are tied into a macabre web of secrets, all enacted in the classic Psycho house, in true Gothic fashion, while all the while Norman is trying to break free and be a normal teenager.

To further complicate matters, Norman’s deadbeat half-brother Dylan, played by Max Thieriot (whom the ladies claim is pretty easy on the eyes), arrives, and it is clear from the start that they hate each other (at one point, Norman tries to brain his brother with a meat tenderizer, after noticing his Mother listed as The Whore in his brother’s phone). This show is all about mysteries, lies and secrets, so I won’t give away too much. I will suffice to say that the creators have done a great job creating a motley of likable and realistic characters, like the chronically sick Emma Decody, played by Olivia Cooke, and is already an internet favorite. The myriad sub-plots are unexpected and keep things clipping quickly along, a bonus of modern horror; fast-paced and cutting edge. Bates Motel comes off like a mixture of Hitchcock’s original, Twin Peaks and Weeds.

I was originally thrown when I realized it was a modern update on the tale. I thought the last re-make of Psycho, in 1998 with Vince Vaughan, was atrocious, leaving me sceptical about the fate of silver screen gems in rough, insensitive modern hands. To be honest, the main thing that kept me watching was a chance to see the gorgeous Psycho house again, in modern glowing detail. That was enough to get me checked in, and I began to notice little things to keep me stringing along. The acting is superb, straight across the board, especially Freddie Highmore’s performance as young Norman. He is like a still pond, warm and caring and emotional, and you can’t wait to watch it all go wrong. It’s brilliant fun to psychoanalyze Norman and his Mother, in the ultimate Oedipal relationship. It seems like Norman is borderline schizophrenic or epileptic, and your heart actually breaks for the young lad. Highmore has high expectations to reach, in the long shadow of Anthony Pekins’ iconic performance, and he has risen above and beyond, so far.

The series is beautifully filmed, the supporting characters are sympathetic, likable and well-acted, and even the characters you don’t like seem deep and realistic, with their own personal agendas. The prevalence of people answering their iPhones makes me wonder if Apple paid for some screen time, but I’m willing to overlook such obnoxiousness for the sake of the strengths listed above. Bates Motel is only three episodes in, and it’s picking up steam fast! Last week’s episode had the mother of all cliffhangers, so you can rest assured that anyone who saw Episode 3 will be tuning in next week, for sure.

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It can be hard to find worthwhile new horror, but it seems like the pall may be lifting, with a whole slew of interesting morbid tales being manufactured in the last three years. Perhaps we are due for a new renaissance? That would be nice.

Bates Motel is worthy of your time and attention.

A & E has been gracious enough to put all three episodes up for free streaming on their website. http://www.aetv.com/bates-motel/

If you are morbidly curious, and don’t want to wait, here’s a detailed Wiki article, to sink yr canines into: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bates_Motel_(TV_series)

As a nice marketing twist, if you’ve seen the series a little bit, you may appreciate this little Easter Egg, a downloadable copy of the hidden manga from Room 4. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/bates-motel-on-a-e-jiaos-story/id623432721?mt=11

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