Bates Motel is a psychotic viewing experience


Norman (Freddie Highmore) has a rather uncomfortable and incredibly intimate conversation with his mother Norma (Vera Farmiga). The Bates Motel works as both a startling new mystery and a prequel to the 1960 horror classic Psycho.

Rachel Johnson & Sophia Kim, Contributing Writer & Staf Writer

After about half a century the wait is over for Psycho fans; Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece has been revived on A&E’s Bates Motel, although Psycho fans don’t seem to be too thrilled about the new TV show.  Reimagined in the contemporary world, Bates Motel is a prequel to the legendary horror film Psycho, which premiered in 1960.  The antihero of the movie, Norman Bates, is a young motel proprietor who harbors a psychotic nature under his beguiling charms.

The show follows a teenaged Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) who is looking to start a fresh new life in a small town with his mother, Norma (Vera Farmiga).  However, peaceful days last only for a short while for the Bates family.  Secrets always have a way of coming out, especially one that’s as pernicious as the one Norma is desperate to hide.

The situation takes a turn for the worse when Norman inadvertently discovers a notebook filled with sketches of Asian girls forced into captivity and prostitution. The sketchbook leads Norman deeper into the town’s transgressions, particularly that the seemingly innocuous town, including the new Bates residence and the motel, malevolent secrets that might cost Norman his life and his mother.

Bates Motel is juggling a whole lot of issues, which intertwine with each other, but nonetheless make it difficult to discern the show’s direction.  Psycho fans most likely looked forward to witnessing the development of Norman Bates’ psychotic nature, but must be disappointed to be teased with only glimpses of his hallucinations or sudden outbursts.  The main story seems to revolve more around the town’s mysteries, and Norman resembles Nancy Drew more than the antihero of Psycho, which may suggest the show may lead to an alternate reality for Norman Bates.

As executive producer Carlton Cuse has expressed, Bates Motel is a reimagining of Psycho, not the remake.  Vera Farmigan added that the show is inspired by the renowned movie, but it will challenge everything we know about the world of Psycho.

The fact that Bates Motel, though a prequel, takes place in the modern times serves as substantial proof that Norman may not become the psychotic serial killer as we know from the movie, but open another possible future for himself.

Although the show has been considerably altered to suit the medium of TV, including the addition of original characters like Dylan Massett (Max Thieriot), Norman’s half-brother, the atmosphere of the show stays true to that of the original Psycho.

Bates Motel is set in the present, but has an eerie, antiquated ambience that ties the show back to the movie.  Throughout the whole hour, Bates Motel exudes Psycho’s signature atmosphere: a heavy, ominous mood that surrounds the characters even if they are doing something completely ordinary.

Visual presentation further reinforces the eerie feel from Psycho.  The interior of the Bates household is also composed of antiques and archaic furniture and decorations.  The motel is almost a perfect replica to the original used in the movie.  Although it’s too early to tell if Bates Motel will live up to Psycho fans’ expectations, if you watch it once, your curiosity will take you right backW to A&E on Monday nights at 10 p.m.