Ever since 'Wisconsin necrophile' Ed Gein first made the news at the time of his arrest in 1957, he's remained a figure of such grisly fascination that film-makers have felt it viable to revisit his memorably macabre exploits at regular intervals. Psycho is merely the finest, most famous film to use his crimes for inspiration; others include The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Deranged (until now most faithful to the facts) and The Silence of the Lambs. Here the director never flinches from providing the requisite disturbing images, but his is a surprisingly sober response to a potentially salacious subject. After shy, gentle Ed (Railsback - Charlie Manson in Helter Skelter) disinters a woman from the local cemetery, we proceed, via key encounters (friendly barmaid, sympathetic shopkeeper) and flashbacks and fantasies mostly featuring his nine-years-dead but still dangerously influential religious-nut mom (Snodgress), to the cops' discovery of the mausoleum, abattoir, ossuary, offbeat eatery, eccentric furniture warehouse and walk-in wardrobe that the decrepit family farmhouse had become. As with the best scenes of Deranged, the conjunction of colourful case history, odd impulses, gallows humour, low budget austerity and genuinely grotesque iconography produces a felicitous and engaging variant of American Gothic.
Cast and crew
Steve Railsback Carrie Snodgress Carol Mansell Sally Champlin Steve Blackwood Nancy Lineham Charles Bill Cross Ryan Thomas Brockington Austin James Peck