Well, it looks like Hollywood isn’t quite done mining Alfred Hitchcock’s legendary horror film Psycho for ideas. After 2012’s HITCHCOCK – the biopic based loosely (very loosely) on Stephen Rebello’s brilliant book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho – there was really nowhere to go except back to the beginning … the very beginning. A&E recently released a trailer for its new series, Bates Motel, and from the look of it, this series (premiering March 2013) has the potential to be disturbingly good.
Starring Freddie Highmore (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Finding Neverland) as a teenage Norman Bates, and Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air, Source Code) as Norma, his twisted mother, this series makes the surprising choice to transpose this infamous story (largely told in 1990’s underrated Psycho IV – The Beginning) to a modern day world. The producers have wisely decided to use the classic sets from Hitchcock’s 1960 classic (or at least a remarkable facsimile), and series creators Carlton Cuse (Lost) and Kerry Ehrin (Friday Night Lights), seem to have found a nice balance between a classic gothic story and new millennial ideals. At least that’s what the impressive trailer leads one to believe. Check it out, and leave your thoughts below.
While we’re on the subject … I must share, briefly, my thoughts on HITCHCOCK. After reading and loving Rebello’s book, I had ridiculously high hopes for the film version. With a strong cast led by Anthony Hopkins as Hitch, and Helen Mirren as his wife Alma Reville, what could go wrong? Plenty.
The Making of Psycho (so fascinatingly detailed in Rebello’s book) only takes up about a quarter of the screen time here, which is too bad because what director Sacha Gervasi (Anvil! The Story of Anvil) and screenwriter John McLaughlin (Black Swan) have replaced it with is pure, fictional hooey. But what really kills the picture here – and I’m shocked to be saying this – is the casting of Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock. Oscar-winner Hopkins is one of the greatest actors of any generation, and can do damn near anything (… including play Richard Nixon, whom he does not remotely resemble). But while others have bought into this heavily-prosthetic’d performance, I never bought it for a second. Hopkins acting is fine, but he doesn’t look or sound anything like the real McCoy, and without a suspension of disbelief in the critical lead role, the movie, to me, was an epic fail. Which only proves that just because you CAN cast Anthony Hopkins in a role, doesn’t mean you SHOULD. Why, oh why, couldn’t the powers that be here, have hired, say, Timothy Spall. Now there’s your Hitchcock.
What absolutely DOES work in this picture, is the Oscar-worthy performance of Helen Mirren as Alma, who shines bright within this otherwise amateurish production.
Supporting cast members Scarlett Johanssen as Janet Leigh (very good), James D’Arcy as Anthony Perkins (physically right on, but too much of a caricature), and Jessica Biel as Vera Miles (nice eye candy, but not given much to do … just like Ms. Miles) add fun to the proceedings. But the film’s copious problems (led by its sorely miscast lead) eventually sink this film. Poor recreations of Psycho’s original sets, no footage of the original Psycho, no filming done on Universal’s lot where the house and motel still stand (instead there is one stunningly bad insert shot of the Bates house over Hitchcock offices), a fictional flirtation between Alma and another writer, all of these things conspired to make HITCHCOCK – to my mind at least – the most disappointing film of 2012. Save your money and watch Psycho instead.
Okay A&E, don’t screw this up. Bring on Bates Motel.