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The 100




Bates Motel
(1987)
Reviewed by Mike Brannon
Rating: 10 Beans

onathan Harris' famous line summarizes it best. "Oh the pain... the pain of it all!!"

I thought Psycho IV was the worst debacle to be tied to Hitchcock's original thriller. Boy was I wrong. The SciFi Channel had a pain parade of the Psycho Sequels and I found this little canker sore of film.

This movie takes place after III, evidentally. Bug-eyed Bud Cort plays Alex West, who turns out to be another psychotic killer who is locked up in the Fairvale Nuthouse. Evidentally, he was locked up as a child for killing his father, and arrived about the same time as Norman Bates. (Norman Bates, the owner of the Bates Motel, murderer, taxidermist and Ed McAffery-look-alike) Evidentally, Norman provided Alex with a father figure, and when he dies a few years later, he leaves two things. First, he leaves the Bates Motel to Alex. Second, he leaves a big ol' steaming pile of CONTINUITY ERROR for Psycho IV. This couldn't have happened before (Norman was still alive in IV) and it sure couldn't have happened afterward (the house burned down at the end of IV). Anyhoo, we have the standard Psycho Sequel exposition... namely, the wacko owner is let out on the streets on one pretext or another, ready to re-open the Bates Motel.

Lori Petty shows up in a chicken suit. Really. She seems to be a drifter working a demeaning job for a Fried Chicken Chain and living in the Bates House, and Cort doesn't seem to have a problem with this. Sorry folks, if I inherited a mansion, and Tank Girl was inside, dressed up as dinner poultry, my first reaction would be to flee in horror and find a phone FAR AWAY, then call the cops.

So Alex decides that he wants to re-open the hotel. Yeah, Al, wonderful idea. Let's forget the history that everyone seems to know. Let's forget the fact that the motel was always deserted because of its location. Can't miss. Hey, let's do a continental breakfast, too!

The strange thing is, he convinces everyone that this lunacy is actually a sound business plan. The bank officer goes from saying the idea is laughable to granting a multi-million dollar loan just cuz West gives him the sad puppy dog eyes. Er, make that vapid, bulging fish eyes. I guess the bank officer just had a voice in his head that this was a wise financial choice: to reopen a well-known, shunned infamous multi-homicide scene at the behest of some mullet-headed weirdo who just got released from a mental hospital.

So then we have a long montage of re-building the Bates Motel. Yes, folks, we're renovating for the 80s, for those yuppies sipping their clear diet colas while listening to some new wave androgynous british band. Gnarly, dude! A place where you can check in, crank up the Talking Heads, watch some MTV, drink your Heinekein and wonder if you are "nasty" enough to call Janet Jackson "Miss." Hey, if you get a real party going, you can even Wang Chung all night!

Er. Sorry. Back to the movie.

So the Bates Motel gets its first customer, some lady who kinda looks like Jennifer Beals on crack, who has some "amusing" small talk with sharp-as-a-kitchen-sponge Alex, before going off to her room. Then she leaves all these convenient suicide notes on the mirror, and takes a razor to the bathroom. Wow, nearly a dozen women killed on the property and now a suicide on re-opening night? What a crummy motel. No wonder Bates Motel is absent from the AAA Courtesy Directory.

Well, then these groovy sixties and fifties cats and dolls drive up in their Fairlanes and Rumblers. For a second I was wondering if I sat on the remote and accidentally changed the channel into another movie. So these are teenagers all dressed up as swinging hepcats from the postwar era? This is the 80s! No spiked hair? No CHOOSE LIFE T-shirts? No girls yelling "Duran Duran RULES!!" ? Not ONE of these boys even tried to pick up the hotel phone and dial 867-5309 to see if "Jenny" would answer! How can this be the 80s?!!?

So of course, this is the old guardian angel metaphor where the ghosts of kids intervene when our "Oh What A Feeling" alumnus in cabin one is about to end it all. The kids all check into the available cabins, booking the place solid on opening night. This vignette feels like a draft of a "Night Gallery" episode written by Rod Serling's ex-girlfriend's brother's cousin's former proctologist's dog groomer.

So of course the kids all reveal themselves as ghosts of suicide victims, dissuade Mrs. Flashdance and drive off into the night. Quite frankly, the key thing on my mind was wondering HOW these ghosts managed to pay Alex for the rooms. Most dead people don't carry cash. I guess I was supposed to be wrapped up in the moment, which was hard since this hackneyed crap is like a fifth-grader's first attempt at writing an episode for "Twilight Zone." There's even the feel-good "wrap-up" where she leaves the next morning with renewed hope as she chats with Alex. Good Lord. I felt like some miscellaneous member of the G.I. Joe team should pull up on an stylish combat cycle, and say into the camera, "And Knowing Is HALF the BATTLE!"

Then, when you could swear things couldn't possibly get worse, the absolute lowest thing happens. No, not a cameo by Butch Patrick. Worse. Alex is confronted by Mrs. Bates, who is the bank officer in disguise, who in turn is frightened off by "the REAL Mrs. Bates" who turns out to be Lori Petty in disguise...Remind anyone of the "Nowhere To Hyde" episode of Scooby Doo Where Are You? Forget Doyle, Christie and Serling, folks. Let's go with Hanna Barbara. Nice to see they are stealing from the only best. Urg.

Then Alex gives a goofy, "Come back and see us" speech that reveals this turkey was supposed to be a pilot for a "Twilight-Zone" style supernatural novella series. Not since the Hollywood ending of "The Bad Seed" have I seen such sickening, self-indulgent corn.

But hey, come on by the Bates Motel if you do like some corn to munch on. With the performances, and story line, I'd say they'd offer lots of Ham And Cheese Sandwiches, as well. And have some of their 10 Bean Soup too...... Good Lord... the pain.... CALGON, TAKE ME AWAY!!!

(Mike falls down in a quivering heap)






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