Our next debuting contributor for this year of Halloween Horrors is Rebecca Giles.
As she oh-so-quickly informs you during the opening sentence of her contribution, Rebecca is a co-worker of mine. Despite the fact that she constantly asks me for permission to do certain things (like “go home”), I am not her boss or manager. That said, I did threaten to fire her if she submitted a lackluster piece. Luckily for her, she will get to keep her job.
In all seriousness, I’m thrilled to have her joining us this year and couldn’t be happier that she chose a character that I did not expect from her.
One night at work, Dustin asked me if I knew how to write and offered me a spot in this series (if I wanted it). I was taken a little off guard, but also pleasantly surprised. You see, I’m not writer. I am, however, an avid fan of all things “spooky”. I love Halloween, horror movies, and ghost stories; however, I probably shocked Dustin with my character choice. I’m a little surprised myself that I didn’t choose Gizmo (he’s just too cute!) or Chucky (my all-time favorite!). Not only do I love horror, but I’m also a true crime buff. So, of course, I had to choose a character based on an actual serial killer. Therefore, I’m throwing it way back to before Freddy and Jason: my choice is Norman Bates from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960’s classic, Psycho.
The first time I watched Psycho, I was a freshman in high school. I hadn’t fully immersed myself into true crime, but I loved a good scary movie. And, to be quite honest, I thought the film was boring. I grew up on blood and gore. I was into the knife-wielding masked men from teen screams. An old school slasher hardly compared to the 90’s thrillers littered with multiple murders, in my opinion. My best friend and I couldn’t wait for the movie to be over so we could watch Scream and see some action (and maybe swoon over Billy Loomis a bit too).
My love of horror movies was the fire that fueled my research of serial killers. As the story of Ed Gein unfolded during one of my late-night binges, I poured over endless articles delving into his past. I viewed the crime scene photos through my fingers because of how gruesome they were. I was so intrigued by his story. His dependency on his mother despite her domineering ways, his lack of social development, and his compulsion to perform heinous acts were fascinating to me. (How can you not be interested in a man who collects nipples?) I also learned that he was the inspiration behind some of Hollywood’s most notorious characters. I mean, Leatherface? Come on! What a legend! Once I was immersed in my research, I knew I had to give Psycho a second chance. This movie, and particularly Bates as a character, paved the way for so many of the others that I’ve come to love.
Watching the film for a second time was like watching an entirely new movie. Bates, portrayed by a handsome Anthony Perkins in his twenties, stuck out to me as so much more than a murderer. Bates suffered severe emotional abuse at the hands of his mother. After he murders her, he carries her with him in his mind. “Mother” is always there to berate and belittle him. “Mother” forbids Bates to have friends, and rages when he is attracted to women. Bates goes so far as to have conversations with “Mother”, wherein Bates speaks to himself or her corpse. “Mother” takes him over completely at times, and is the driving force behind his violence.
Watching this film again, I was truly disturbed at times. Watching Bates function as “Mother”, and his inability to identify that in actuality it was himself, was frightening to say the least. We all get spooked at a jump scare, and the occasional ghost story or possession movie will keep me up at night, but to watch someone so completely enveloped in mental illness that they are unaware of their actions (including murder) really got into my head. Once Bates is captured and institutionalized, “Mother” seems to take permanent control of his mind. This scene is the one that sold the movie and character(s) for me.
Bates won me over in the end. He is completely mad and it frightened me deeply. It’s the kind of scare that plants itself as a seed in your mind. The kind that grows and trickles down your neck, wraps around your spine and gives you chills. It’s the kind of scare that makes you think, “Could that be me? Could I be crazy too?”. Norman Bates made me question my own sanity and, for that, I applaud him.