Sunday, October 16, 2016

Bates Motel (1987)

When I decided that I would review the Psycho franchise this October, I hadn't originally intended on doing this, mainly because I had never seen it but also because it's not an actual part of the franchise but more of a strange, rarely mentioned offshoot of it. But, when a good friend of mine, Newt Cox (the man behind Double T's Blog of Reviews, who's also doing a review for it this month), asked me about it and I then discovered that it was on YouTube, though, I figured, "Why not?" and decided to include it as part of this marathon of reviews. I may not have actually seen this movie until just recently but I have had some knowledge of it since around 2000 when I got my first computer and internet and looked up the original Psycho. The website that I found used excerpts from Leonard Maltin's annual movie review books and at the end of his glowing review, he mentioned the three sequels as well as a TV "series" called Bates Motel. Imagine my surprise when I heard that there was a Psycho TV show and my bewilderment when nobody else seemed to know of it. After that, I didn't think any more about it until one Saturday when I was in high school when Sci-Fi Channel unexpectedly showed this. I saw a couple of glimpses of it (namely a bit of the opening credits, which I recognized as being from Psycho II, and a brief glimpse of the reading of Norman Bates' will) but I had other things to do so I didn't watch it, although I was confused that it was being touted as a TV movie in that month's cable guide book rather than as a series, which I always thought it was. I initially thought that it might have been something else but since the year listing in the book was 1987 and I remembered Maltin saying that the "series" was in the 80's, I figured this had to be it. It wasn't until years later when I learned that this was actually a pilot movie for a series that never got picked up, one that never got a DVD release and was very rarely played, making that showing on Sci-Fi even more of an anomaly. It eventually did get an official release on a four pack with the Psycho sequels, which I've seen at Wal-Mart a few times in recent years, but I never had any major inclination to pick it up and check it out, as well as because I didn't want to buy the sequels again when I already had the three-pack they originally came in along with Shout! Factory's Blu-Rays of Psycho II and III. And when I finally watched it on YouTube for the first time after I finished my review of Psycho II, I was very glad that I didn't drop any money to get this thing.

I had no real expectations when I went into this. I had learned of the basic story over the years (someone who befriend Norman Bates in the asylum is left the Bates Motel after his passing and reopens it) and that there wasn't much to it besides that, so I was expecting a mediocre TV horror movie that was about strange things happening when the motel reopens but wasn't suspenseful or scary in the slightest. Well, I didn't even get that; this isn't a horror film at all, let alone a psychological one as Wikipedia describes it. It's a hard to call it a horror film when nobody dies (except for Norman, who dies off-camera from natural causes) and it's even harder when the tone isn't even trying to be scary or moody. Instead, this is a cheap, silly movie that's more of a comedy than anything else, with not much happening for a good chunk of it, lame attempts at trying to make it feel as if the property is haunted, and a sudden veer into Twilight Zone territory during the third act, making it seem like a completely different movie. I debated about whether or not to make this an entry of Movies That Suck and I ultimately decided not to because there's nothing about this that made me angry but, that said, there's very little to this movie and it's not something I'll ever watch again once this review is finished. (Heads up, by the way: most of the images here will look like crap since they're from an old VHS rip.)

Following his arrest for his crimes in Fairville, California in 1960, Norman Bates is sent to the state mental hospital, which is also home to Alex West, a troubled child who murdered his horribly abusive stepfather. Dr. Goodman, deciding that he needs a friend, introduces him to Norman and the two of them become very close friends over the following 27 years, with Norman becoming the father Alex never had. Following Norman's death and cremation, Alex, who is going to be released soon, receives the urn full of his ashes and, during the reading of the will, is bequeathed the Bates Motel, with the hope that he will be able to make it into a thriving business again. After some reluctance on his part since the asylum is the only home he's ever known, Alex leaves for Fairville and, after some difficulty due to people claiming to have never heard of the place, makes his way to the rundown motel courtesy of Henry Watson, a handyman who once worked at the motel and knew Norman when he was a kid. As he settles in to living at the motel, Alex goes through the troubles of getting a loan to begin work on the place, having to deal with those who want to destroy the motel and house to turn the property into something else, and meets Willie, a young woman who's been living in the house for some time who agrees to stick around and help Alex, whether he likes it or not. Work begins smoothly enough but things turn sinister when Mrs. Bates' remains are uncovered during an accident with a bulldozer and Alex begins seeing a mysterious, female figure in black that no one else does along with other strange, seemingly supernatural, incidents. Has Mrs. Bates returned from the grave to haunt the property, as everyone in town believes? And when the motel opens for business, will Alex be able to make enough money in time to pay off the $10,000 loan he borrowed?

Bates Motel is one of only two directing credits, the other being a couple of episodes of an 80's TV series he created called Deadly Nightmares, of Richard Rothstein, who's primarily a writer. His most well-known credit is writing the story for the original Universal Soldier (he had nothing to do with the sequels) and before that, he'd written obscure horror films like Death Valley, a 1982 film that featured Peter Billingsley before he became legendary for playing Ralphie in A Christmas Story, and Invitation to Hell, a TV movie that Wes Craven directed right before he hit the big time with A Nightmare on Elm Street. According to IMDB, he hasn't been active that much since the 2000's rolled around, with his most recent credits being a producer on the 2004 TV series T.H.E.M. and Kitchen Trends 2005, a TV documentary that sounds absolutely fascinating doesn't it? (The guy is so obscure, I have no clue what he looks like and as a result, I didn't know where to begin with trying to find an image of him, especially since there are other people with that name.)

While I can understand why Robert Galluzo chose to focus only on the movies starring Anthony Perkins for the documentary, The Psycho Legacy, I kind of wish he would have delved into this too, if only for a special feature on the extras disc (there is a very small deleted bit on it that you can find on YouTube), because I'm very curious as to what the mindset behind it was. I'd like to know who thought a TV series based around the Bates Motel itself done in this way would have been successful and, moreover, why they thought it was a good idea to do it the year after Psycho III kind of took the wind out of the franchise's sails. They must have understood the latter since the story only acknowledges the original film (despite using Psycho II's opening at the beginning and end) but I would still like to know why they thought it would be successful regardless and why they decided to go in the direction they did. A television show based around the Bates Motel isn't a bad idea and neither is the general story of this but the way they went about it is mind-boggling to me. It would have been interesting to have someone who is as disturbed as Norman become the new caretaker of the motel and have to deal the property's troubled history becoming back to haunt it, whether they wanted to do that in a literal, supernatural way or take the psychological route, but instead, they decided to be so cheesy and tongue-in-cheek, as well as sappy with the friendship that developed between Norman and Alex, that it feels like they're mocking the source material. It gets especially bad when they suddenly begin telling a completely different story that feels more like a Twilight Zone wannabe during the third act, which I think we can view as a prelude to what the show would have been if the network decided to go with it. It's so bizarre and the fact that it was backed by Universal and shot on their backlot blows my mind even more. In that regard, it's weirdly fascinating but that's really the only reason to watch it.

Since I knew he was also from the mental asylum and had befriended Norman Bates, I was expecting the character of Alex West (Bud Cort) to be a much more sinister and creepy presence, as opposed to the reserved, harmless, and downright geeky fish out of water that he is. That said, though, Cort's performance is so likable that he's actually one of the few things about this movie that I can say is genuinely good. You learn about the horrible life Alex had with his abusive stepfather and how that pushed him to murder him at the beginning of the film and you then hear how the friendship and bond that formed between Alex and Norman really helped him to open up and become more sociable (I'll go into why I don't like that whole idea in and of itself later). At Norman's funeral, Alex mentions about what a great friend Norman was to him, keeping his ashes with him, and when he learns that he's been left the Bates Motel, he decides, despite his initial fear and hesitation about being released since life in the asylum is all he's ever known, to go and make it a thriving place again per Norman's wishes. After he goes through the typical routine of being somebody severely out of touch and not used to city life, he makes his way to the Bates Motel and begins the process of getting it back together. Despite the hurdles he goes through, like the difficulty in getting a loan, people trying to persuade him to tear the place down for something more profitable, the uncovering of both Mrs. Bates' and Jake Bates' (Norman's father) corpses on the property, and weird incidents that make others question his sanity, Alex never loses his determination to fulfill Norman's dream and, with help from his friends Willie and Henry Watson, he succeeds in opening the motel back up for business. He also uncovers a plot by Tom Fuller, the bank employer who gave him the loan, to chase him and everyone else off and he, along with his friends, manage to negotiate a more reasonable deadline to pay off the bank loan. The movie even ends with Alex breaking the fourth wall and inviting the viewers to come by if they ever need a rest, saying that he can't be sure what they'll find but, "That's what makes the world go round." In spite of all the problems I have with this story and its execution, Cort is what kept me going through it as he's just so damn likable and quirky (he's also one of the oddest-looking actors I've ever seen by far).

Back when I was looking for images for my review of the original Psycho, I would inadvertently stumble across some from Bates Motel, one of which was the scene where Alex first meets Willie (Lori Petty) in the house when she's dressed up in her chicken costume. Not knowing the context, my jaw dropped and I could only think, "What the fuck?!" Now having seen the movie, it's actually one of the most memorable things the character does; otherwise, she doesn't leave much of an impression. They try to make her up to be the tough-talking, street smart, tomboy type, one who's trying to make her career ambitions happen but is stuck in a dead-end side job of being a mascot for this fried chicken restaurant. In reality, she comes across as a little annoying, with how she doesn't care that the house legally belongs to Alex and refuses to leave even when he makes it clear he wants to do this by himself, and at times downright schizophrenic with how she'll suddenly lose it with him, suddenly blowing up at one point when he doesn't compliment her cooking and saying that he's the crazy one around there. Instances like that make it a little tough to like her, even when she manages to keep Alex from being suckered in by opportunists and uncovers the scheme by Tom Fuller to scare Alex and everyone else away, going as far as to trick him into making a confession that she records and threatens to ensure it falls into the "wrong hands" if he doesn't give Alex a more reasonable deadline to pay off the bank loan. And I also don't find myself really caring when she and Alex become genuine friends near the end of the second act. She should have just stayed in the chicken outfit, as far as I'm concerned.

The other true friend that Alex makes when he arrives in Fairville is Henry Watson (Moses Gunn), a local handyman who reveals that he used to work for the Bates family and knew Norman when he was a kid. From the beginning, Henry proves to be a gruff but kindly man who gives Alex back his Bates Motel postcard after he drops it and gives him a ride to the motel, telling him about its past, the local rumors that it's haunted, and his personal connection to it. He also makes it very clear that he has no love for Mrs. Bates and hates what she did to Norman, apparently trying to dissuade Alex from going there. Later on when Alex comes to him with the offer to hire him as a contractor, Henry, although grateful, is reluctant to take the job even though he's about to lose his house to development (that's a good scene and Gunn does a great acting job as he talks about the memories he's had living there and how he's never thought about where he would go if he needed to leave). He claims it's because it's too big of a job for him and because he's too old but it's obvious the main reason is because he's simply reluctant to go back there, possibly thinking it is haunted. However, Henry does take him up on the offer and remains loyal to him for the rest of the film, helping him and Willie expose Tom Fuller as the one who's been trying to scare everyone away by making them think that Mrs. Bates' ghost does haunt the property.

From his first scene, Tom Fuller (Gregg Henry), the bank official who gives Alex the loan to get started, comes across as a shady, untrustworthy individual. With a smarmy attitude and a big shit-eating grin on his face, he tries to convince Alex that simply reopening the motel is a bad idea and that the property itself would be worth a fortune if he put in a condo complex or something of the like instead but when Alex makes his case, he tells him to have his architect and contractor give him an estimate and he'll see what he can do. Alex does eventually get the loan, of course, but as the strange incidents begin to happen, Fuller seems only too happy to add to his anxieties, telling him a little more about the place's history and how Mrs. Bates eventually snapped after her husband, Jake, disappeared when she discovered he spent his time down at the motel making sure the customers were "satisfied." And by an amazing coincidence, when Fuller drops Alex off at the motel, a worker digs up a skeleton that turns out to be Jake and then comments that the place is a burial ground rather than a motel. Willie later discovers that said worker, who also tried to spook the other workers into quitting, is Fuller's brother-in-law, leading to the ending where they expose him as the one who's been dressing up as the deceased Mrs. Bates and been behind all the creepy stuff that's been happening in an attempt to drive Alex away so someone with bigger business ambitions would take control of it (which also explains why he gave Alex such an unreasonable payment deadline). In short, he's nothing more than a Scooby-Doo villain, and it's likely that he would have continued to try to cause them trouble in the show had it come to that.

Some very notable character actors make up the supporting cast. Robert Picardo has a brief role at the beginning as Dr. Goodman, the kindly psychiatrist at the mental institution who brings Norman and Alex together. He's nothing less than absolutely supportive and warm towards Alex, seeing that he needs a true friend when he first meets him and finding himself privileged to have witnessed the friendship between the two of them that blossomed. He recommends Alex's release shortly after Norman's funeral and when he's reluctant and scared about it, Goodman assures him that he'll be just fine and reminds him that it's what Norman always wanted for him. When Alex is still reluctant to leave after he learns that Norman gave him the legal rights to the Bates Motel, Goodman presses him to go, telling him that it's Norman's way of giving him an opportunity at a real life, which ultimately leads to him doing so. Lee de Broux (who you may remember from RoboCop as the rival crime lord who has a tense business meeting with Clarence Boddicker at a cocaine factory before Robocop drops by) appears briefly as the disbelieving sheriff who Alex calls after seeing an apparent vision of Jake Bates' murdered body and gives him an earful when he finds no trace of it. And finally, George Buck Flower (who appeared in a number of movies, including many directed by John Carpenter) and Carmen Filpi (who also had a filmography a mile long, with one of his most memorable roles being Reverend Jackson P. Sayer who gives Dr. Loomis a lift in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers) appear as two vagrants Alex meets when he arrives in Los Angeles, with the latter trying to drink Norman's ashes as he thinks the urn is full of sake!

I know it sucks but it's the only image of Norman from this
film I could find.
I mentioned in my review of Psycho III that writer Charles Edward Pogue's reasoning behind undoing the Ms. Spool angle introduced at the end of Psycho II was because he found it to be disrespectful to the mythology of the original; I can only imagine what he would have thought of its treatment here. The idea of Norman Bates (who's only seen at the beginning and in some pictures with Alex, where he's portrayed by Kurt Paul, Anthony Perkins' double in the sequels) forming a bond with a kid at the asylum, becoming the father that he never had, and hoping for a better life for him if he ever got his freedom, telling him that it's important to learn to forgive and leaving him the motel so he can turn it into a welcoming, thriving business again, is absolutely ludicrous when you take into account the way he is at the end of the original Psycho, where Mother has complete control over his psyche. Yes, he may have been temporarily cured of his psychosis in the first sequel but that was after over two decades' worth of treatment, whereas this movie implies that he and Alex bonded as soon as they met. Go back and look at that final shot of Norman in the original movie: does that look at all like somebody who'd be able to become a friend to a troubled little kid? Despite his good intentions, this idea that Dr. Goodman took Alex to see Norman right after his conviction and arrival at the asylum makes him look like a complete idiot. They do acknowledge that Norman was a murderer but they ignore the fact that there was a lot more deranged stuff to him in addition, particularly his split-personality, the crossdressing, and his unhealthy, repressed sexuality. In fact, given that the Mother persona was in complete control of Norman at the end and we know what the actual person did to him when he was a kid, he was the absolute worst person you could introduce a troubled kid to!

This is the image I mentioned earlier that almost caused me to
drop my teeth when I first saw it.
There are a number of points, particularly during the first act, where it feels like this movie is mocking the original film. It opens in black-and-white with a newscaster speaking about Norman's arraignment in a very over-the-top, cheesy manner outside the courthouse from which he's transported to the mental asylum. This guy lays it on so thick, with melodramatic lines and emphasis on random words, with some examples being, "And so ends the most terrible and bizarre chapter in the history of this picture-book town. That of a young man whose poor mind, twisted and bent out of shape like a pretzel, tortured by self-loathing and guilt, plunged headlong into a world of dementia and darkness," and, "A journey down a long road known as justice and off to his new home, the state mental institution at Dunsmore, where perhaps, just perhaps, Norman will come to understand the wrong that he has done and, through kindness and a lot of intensive analysis, will emerge from the darkness and into the light." It's as if it's meant to mock the more dramatic acting style back then. He also mentions the cutlery where Norman took his mother's knives to have them sharpened and the hotel he once worked at where he first became interested in management, which made me think, "Oh. It's that kind of movie." Later on during the reading of Norman's will, the man doing so rolls his eyes at the line, "I, Norman Bates, being of sound mind," before bequeathing a couple of interesting items to other people at the asylum: one woman who taught Norman how to cook receives a prop roasted turkey and another guy who taught him to do the Twist and the Huckle-Buck gets his record collection. When I first saw this, I was dumbfounded. I didn't expect the movie to be amazing but I was not prepared for the overabundance of silliness present. It only gets worse from there, as you have Alex asking for directions to the Bates Motel from the drive-in speaker at a fried chicken restaurant, Willie's first appearance in her chicken mascot costume (I should not be seeing Lori Petty in a chicken costume in a film that's related to Psycho!), and Alex trying to make up with her in said costume after a squabble they had, only to realize that the person inside was a guy standing in for her. What's with all this chicken nonsense? Was that turkey meant to be some type of foreshadowing? If so, then they used the wrong bird.

Despite that stupid joke about her knives needing sharpened at the beginning, it originally seems like this film will at least treat Mrs. Bates, who's renamed Gloria here when it was always Norma before (they also rename the town of Fairvale as Fairville, for some reason), with some respect, as it's hinted throughout the movie that her evil spirit is haunting the property. While they don't go into the sordid details, they also don't gloss over the fact that she was a cruel woman, with Henry Watson telling Alex that he can't believe what she did to little Norman, mentioning that she always locked him up. The film also makes mention of Norman's father, who's given the first name of Jake, and how he spent more time at the motel than at the house, making sure the customers were satisfied, especially the women, which Mrs. Bates absolutely hated. It's initially said that he simply disappeared and that his wife mourned for him, waiting for him to come back, but it's later suggested, albeit through one of Tom Fuller's scare tactics, that she may have murdered him in a jealous rage, which is an interesting idea. The same goes for the concept of her spirit haunting the house and the motel... if they had pulled it off right. Unfortunately, this movie, being what it is, doesn't know the meaning of the word "creepy" and so, when Alex begins seeing visions of a woman dressed completely in black at the burial of Mrs. Bates' remains after they're unearthed (the only explanation given as to why they weren't buried after Norman's arrest is because of the "shockwaves" in the area, which is a very weak, vague one) and in the bedroom window, it isn't eerie or unsettling in the least. And even before she's revealed to be nothing more than Fuller dressed up as her in a Scooby-Doo plot to drive Alex and everyone else away, the sight of this apparition dressed entirely black, with a hooded skull for a head, and brandishing a knife, yelling in an over-the-top, elderly female voice, "Leave my home! Leave and never come back!", is impossible to take seriously (the cheesy slow-motion that sequence is filmed in doesn't help matters either).

The biggest sin this movie commits is that it's not entertaining in the least, not even in a bad way; moreover, even though it's only a little over 90 minutes long, by the time you get into the third act, it feels like you've been watching it for three hours. It's abysmally slow and the story is not engaging at all, as all you're watching after the opening is Alex fumbling around the town, making himself at home at the motel, going through the troubles of getting a loan, fending off those who want to talk him into leveling the place and turning it into a more profitable business complex, getting a contractor, running into problems during construction, beginning to become frightened and feel that there is something supernatural going on, and having to deal with Willie's appearance and refusal to leave. I know it was meant to provide the setup for a weekly TV show but it just goes on and on and on without much happening, and at some point, even Burt Cort and Moses Gunn's good performances can't save it. You can't even rely on the mystery of whether or not the strange happenings are supernatural and if the mysterious figure Alex keeps seeing is Mrs. Bates' ghost to give you something because, as I just described, it's not scary at all.

In describing the wildly different third act where the motel finally opens up, my friend Newt described it best: it's as if the combined the pilot episode with a little bit of the second. After the motel is finished and opened for business, the first customer is a woman named Barbara Peters (Kerrie Keane) who claims to be an aspiring writer looking for peace and quiet but is actually a depressed woman who feels like she's failed at life and is planning on ending it all that night. A group of teenage partiers also arrive at the motel, booking it solid, and one of them, a perky girl (Khrystyne Haje), wanders into Barbara's room, stopping her from slashing her wrists in the bathtub, and after some talk, convinces her to join the party she and her friends are having in one of the rooms. Once they arrive, the girl introduces Barbara to Tony (Jason Bateman), a reserved young man and, despite her hesitation given the difference in age between them, they end up dancing and having a great time. However, Barbara stops herself short of kissing him, feeling that it's wrong, and after he storms off, the two of them have a heartfelt conversation outside where she admits that she felt special while dancing with him but, in her mind, it's inappropriate since she's not in high school anymore. Tony, in response, tells her that he feels cold and alone, which Barbara feels is nonsense since his whole life is ahead of him. After telling him she'll always be grateful to him, she sends back to the party and goes back to her room, again to try to commit suicide, when the girl arrives again to stop her. She tells Barbara that she knows what she's going through and says that as long as she herself and friends, she's a fool to throw it all away... revealing then that she knows her name is actually Sally. That's when she drops a bombshell: she knows what Barbara is going through because she herself committed suicide 25 years before, as did all of the other teenagers there, including Tony, over the years and they've come to stop her because, as she says, "It stinks." Needless to say, Barbara is taken aback by this and, after a parade of the teenagers revealing who they were and when they took their lives, it appears as if she's going to do the same because she's so distraught but the ending reveals that she didn't. In fact, she now has a new appreciation for life and drives off ready to face it, which is when Alex invites the viewer to come by the motel if he or she ever needs a room, although he admits he's not sure what they'll find if they do. You get a feeling that this is an example of what the series might have been had it been picked up, which, like I said, makes you feel like you're suddenly watching an episode of the 80's revival of The Twilight Zone. As for whether or not this would have worked on a weekly basis, I don't know. It might have if they had gotten some really good writers to do the stories, whereas this in particular isn't the best example as it's predictable (I called the twist a while before it was revealed), stops the film's main story dead in its tracks for a good chunk of time, and doesn't feel original enough to warrant being the catalyst for a weekly series. I think that's a trap the show might have fallen into if this section was indicative of what would have come: it wouldn't have had enough of its own identity to be that successful.

Considering how tiny the budget must have been, one thing the people behind this movie were extremely lucky in that it was officially backed by Universal and, as a result, they were able to use the actual motel and house sets on the backlot. I will say that, while the film really sucks at creating atmosphere, it is interesting to see the place looking more rundown and deserted than it ever has been when Alex first arrives, with most of the cabin doors left open, weeds growing out of control here and there, the rooms and parlor left unkempt, and the tumbleweed blowing by giving it a potential feeling of loneliness (I say "potential" because the music score here doesn't give it the chance to feel that way). Speaking of potential, what's really frustrating is that I could see how those shots inside Mrs. Bates' bedroom and the nighttime exteriors with the glowing, buzzing motel sign could have been really creepy if they'd been done better. It's also noteworthy that Alex and his crew do build some add-ons to the place, like a big fountain out in front and a dining hall, to make it a little more welcoming. According to IMDB's trivia page, these additions remained there as part of the backlot tour until 1993. And if you look at the second image here, you'll notice that the tire marks in the parking lot appear to form a question mark leading towards Alex, who's meant to be the dot. I'm guessing that's meant to question whether or not the motel will do fine as Alex feels but, to be honest, I didn't even notice them until I read about them elsewhere.

As you can probably tell by this point, the music score is another aspect of the film that I find to be very lackluster. It's often really generic and uninspired in the way it sounds and then there other times where it feels like the composer was just fooling around. What's double disappointing about this is that said composer is J. Peter Robinson, who went on to do a creepy as hell score for my favorite Nightmare on Elm Street movie, as well as my favorite Wes Craven film, Wes Craven's New Nightmare (although, looking at his filmography, which includes movies like Return of the Living Dead Part II and Vampire in Brooklyn, it doesn't seem like he's had the best track record with horror films in particular). The main theme, which starts out kind of creepy at the very beginning of the movie, is this sappy, light piano piece that absolutely makes me cringe whenever I hear it, which is quite a few times throughout the movie. The music for the opening scene with the newscaster is just as over-the-top and hammy as he is, the piece where Alex first arrives at the Bates Motel tries to sound ominous and eerie but it doesn't work at all (the eerie high-pitched sounds there are rendered useless by a hollow "dun-dun, dun-dun, dun-dun," that's hard to take seriously), the music that plays when Alex meets Willie in her chicken outfit is just as stupid as that scene is itself, so it kind of works in that regard, and the music for all the scenes that are meant to be scary are often too overdone or not creepy enough to work, especially the scene at the end where Alex is confronted by "Mrs. Bates." The piece that is absolutely unbelievable is this electronic, country-sounding one that plays during the montage that shows them finishing up the renovations to the motel. Words can't do it justice; you have to hear it yourself to get how corny it is. And as if that wasn't enough, you have some bland covers of 50's songs like The Twist and such by the band in the cabin where the party's taking place in the third act. The only theme from this movie I kind of like is the one you hear when Alex goes into Mrs. Bates' bedroom. That bit of music is, surprisingly, kind of eerie, which is more than I can say for everything else.

Other than as a curiosity piece and for some nice, likable performances by Bud Cort, Moses Gunn, and several other respectable character actors, Bates Motel has nothing to recommend it. The story is uninteresting, drawn-out, and boring, it takes such a sudden right turn into a completely different one during the third act that you'll wonder if you sat on the remote, Lori Petty's character of Willie is hard to like, its treatment of the characters of Norman Bates and his mother is so wrong, it's not even funny, the film's goofiness sometimes makes it feel as if it's mocking the original, the music score is overall bland, generic, and doesn't help the mood any better, and, above everything else, it's not a horror film. Most frustrating of all, though, is that you can see some potential in a television series with this basic concept and in what it might have been during the third act but it's done in an uninteresting way that doesn't separate it from other shows that have done the idea so much better. I was a bit curious about it before and now that I've seen it, it makes perfect sense why it never got picked up as a series, has been forgotten, and why Anthony Perkins himself thought it sucked (although, I've found conflicting stories about whether or not he actually boycotted its production the way he was rumored to have). Bottom line, if you're really curious and absolutely have to see it just for the sake of completion, go ahead and check it out; anybody else, you can find more interesting ways to fill your time.

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