Hitchcock obsessives will doubtless cry ‘sacrilege!’. This prequel to ‘Psycho’ casts a Brit (‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s’ Freddie Highmore) as young Norman Bates, features a grubby rape scene and even brings the story, uncertainly, into the present day.
But ‘Bates Motel’ has plenty to recommend it. The queasy psychosexual intrigue between Norman and his mum (Vera Farmiga), as they arrive in a new town for a new start, is played with skincrawling acuity by the stars. The motel itself is brilliantly realised, ensuring that the 1950s hang heavily over the modern trappings that occasionally threaten to unbalance the tension.
Some of the supporting cast, from Norman’s outcast schoolmate to the shifty, suspicious copper, seem to be pulled straight from the stockpile of smalltown oddballs, and the dialogue doesn’t exactly sing. But Highmore – always a bit unsettling even as a child actor – is uncanny and the whole concept has a pulpy appeal that should make it worth sticking with for now.