Ed Gein
dir Chuck Parello
scr Stephen Johnston
with Steve Railsback, Carrie Snodgress, Carol Mansell, Sally Champlin, Steve Blackwood, Craig Zimmerman, Pat Skipper
release L.A. 4.May.01; UK 20.Jul.01
Tartan 01/UK-US 1h30

1 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Based on the real life of the guy who inspired Psycho, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Silence of the Lambs, you'd think this would be a compelling, terrifying drama. But no, low-budget production values and a director who never gets control of his material sabotage it before it even gets going. Ed (Railsback) lives in rural Wisconsin and has never recovered from his domineering mother (Snodgress), who haunts all of his memories ... and his present. But it takes ages for the local cops to trace a series of local disappearances to him. And to discover his horrific taxidermic hobbies. Yecch!

With this kind of subject matter you'd expect either an insightful sociological exploration or an all-out horror film, but neither is even remotely attempted here. In fact, I'm not sure what the filmmakers were trying to achieve, because it doesn't work on any level at all. There's no insight into Gein or his family, there's no suspense at all, and the gross-out factor is strangely undercut in an almost made-for-American-TV way, while the cheap production design and a bizarre musical score make it hard to suspend disbelief. The performances are uneven as well--hammy and unnatural. Railsback plays Gein as a cross between Hannibal Lector and Forrest Gump, while Snodgress spits and chews her way through the scenery around them. In the end, all this mediocre filmmaking only trivialises this extraordinary life without helping us understand anything or learn any lessons. There's a great film (or three!) in this man's life--this is certainly not one of them.
themes, violence, grisliness cert 15 16.Jul.01

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2001 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall