Bates Motel

04/25/2020 15:13

Film: Bates Motel

Year: 1987

Director: Richard Rothstein

Writer: Richard Rothstein

Starring: Bud Cort, Lori Petty and Moses Gunn



This was a film I actually didn’t know existed, much like the Psycho series for some time. It actually wasn’t until pretty recently when I realized that there was this TV movie spinoff from the original one that was released in between Psycho III and Psycho IV: The Beginning. This does ignore all of those movies, much like we see with Halloween from 2019 or The Texas Chain Saw Massacre series. The synopsis is a mentally disturbed man, who roomed with the late Norman Bates (Kurt Paul) at the state lunatic asylum, inherits the legendary Bates Motel after his death and tries to fix it up to make it a respectable business again.

We pick up right near the end of the original Psycho. Norman has been convicted of the crimes he committed and we get a bit of back-story through a news reporter. Norman is under the care of Dr. Goodman (Robert Picardo). We get to see a young boy who is also at this hospital and they think it is a good idea to pair Alex with Norman to help them both with their therapy. This works well as Alex West grows up to be played by Bud Cort. Norman dies and we’re at the will reading.

There’s a few items given out, but the major thing is that Alex inherits the Bates Motel. Dr. Goodman thinks it would be good for him to finally the leave the hospital and then use what he has inherited to better his life. Alex needs some convincing and then goes to Los Angeles where he catches a bus to Fairville. No one seems to know where the Bates Motel is until Alex meets Henry Watson (Moses Gunn). It turns out he was a former employee there and takes Alex to the house. It is slated to be torn down and there’s a fence around it. Despite the warnings, Alex stays the night in cabin one and prepares to go to the bank the following day.

It is there he meets Tom Fuller (Gregg Henry). He’s intrigued to see that Alex does indeed own the property and thinks that Alex is going to tear it down to rebuild on it. He’s shocked to find out that Alex wants a small loan to fix it up. He’s willing to listen to the plan before approving the loan.

When Alex returns home, he finds someone else in his house. He is spooked at first, but it turns out to be Willie (Lori Petty). She’s been squatting in the main house and she tries to smooth talking him into letting her help him, but he insists he has to do it alone. She leaves the house that night. She hasn’t gone far though when she comes to his help when Alex is being swindled by an architect.

The two of them enlist the aid of Henry and weird things start happening. They find the body of Norma on the property. At the funeral, Alex thinks he sees a woman in black. There’s also a scene where he thinks he sees her in the window at the main house and other spooky things. There’s also another subplot later as they open the motel back up.

This is where I want to leave my recap as I don’t really like to bash movies, but this is a mess. I find it interesting that they decided to just do a spin-off randomly and not trying to have this fall in line with recognizing some of the others. This came from Universal Television, so it falls into their properties. Personally I found it odd.

With that out of the way, I found the set-up to be fine. We have a mentally disturbed boy that grew up with Norman. I don’t recall that we really ever figured out what was wrong with him and why he’s been there pretty much his whole life. I’m thinking his parents died and he was disturbed by it, but I could be wrong as well. I like that his character is out of place, so he surrounds himself with a street-wise girl in Willie and Henry who is rough, but kind. Since this movie is part comedy, they try to incorporate little jokes and they fell flat for me.

This movie also tries to shift this into being a possible supernatural and it ends up playing like a Scooby-Doo story. On top of that, at the end of my recap I reference to another subplot. Barbara Peters (Kerrie Keane) is the first person to check into the motel when it opens and we see that she has a sad plan she’s going to put into motion. A bunch of teens show up and check in. One of them is Sally (Khrystyne Haje). She comes into Barbara’s room. There’s a bit of confusion to see that Sally is in the wrong room, but she takes the time to invite Barbara to their party. This subplot makes more sense where if this movie would have worked, it was going to be a series where strange things happen here. Being in this movie, it is out of place and I have no idea why it is here. It has a good message still.

Now if you couldn’t tell, this movie wasn’t very good. I will admit that I was pretty bored too. There was a good set up, but then it really just meanders and I didn’t know where it was going. It lacked building toward anything in my opinion and the disjointed story is what resulted. I originally was asking if they were going to be the Norma ghost story to a close and that felt not only rushed, but tacked on to me. It really was lacking direction.

That will take me to the acting, which wasn’t great either. I did think that Cort was fine as this socially awkward character. I don’t recognize him, but I wouldn’t be shocked if this wasn’t too much of a stretch for him. He really seems like he is the character he is portraying in real life. Petty I thought was fine as this side character. We don’t really need her, but she brought life to the film. Gunn is another weird character. We get this odd scene where it looks like they want to tear down his house and he is in a standoff. Alex just walks in and they let him go when Henry agrees to leave. I don’t get it. Henry comes off well as the banker here. He just plays a snake well as I’ve seen him play similar roles. Haje was quite attractive, as was Keane. I thought those two as well as Picardo and an odd cameo by Jason Bateman rounded this out. The acting isn’t horrible, but it’s just not great.

The last thing to cover here would be the effects. We really don’t get a lot to be honest. One thing that works in the favor of this movie is they shoot a lot of things from distance. I think that really can help. I will say, even though there are two cheap masks used at the end of this movie, I have a soft spot for them. If one of them would have been really a ghost though, I would have hated it for sure. The cinematography is fine for a TV movie as well.

Now with that said, I didn’t know much about this movie and I can see why. Really the big thing for this is just how obscure it is and wild that it was made. I don’t think we have a horrible set up and the idea of Alex trying to make his way outside of the comforts of the hospital. I think that the people around him are fine as well. The lack of a coherent story or building toward anything really hurts this. We get a subplot that feels out of place. It is shot fine, but the there’s really not a lot working in its favor. The soundtrack fits for what they were going for. I do have to be honest there as well. I can’t recommend this movie though, even if you like Psycho and its sequels as this is a spin-off and doesn’t fit. I would say this is a well below average, bordering on bad.


My Rating: 3 out of 10