Horror’s Icons: Norman Bates


When one thinks of the vicious killers and maniacs throughout horror, Norman Bates does not automatically come to mind. But while he may win an award for the world’s best dresser murderer, Bates is just as depraved as his fellow horror icons. The maniac from the Psycho series doesn’t hide behind a mask. He isn’t horribly disfigured. And he is not of a mythical origin. Instead, Norman Bates is quite simply an average man that will feed you if needed and then kill you when needed. And all because his mommy tells him to.


In 1960, Alfred Hitchcock released Psycho, the movie that would go on to be his masterpiece despite having over 60 films credited to his name. Psycho is based off of novels of the same name by Robert Bloch and revolve around Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), the owner of the Bate’s Motel. In the original film, a young bank worker named Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) who runs away with a load of money that she has stolen. She needs the money to be able to marry her boyfriend and heads out of town to avoid being caught. After a while of traveling, she stops at the Bate’s Motel, a small motel right off of the highway. There she meets Norman Bates, the owner of the motel. They talk for a while and Norman fixes her a sandwich. Afterwards, while Marion is taking a shower, Norman, dressed as a woman, enters her room and stabs Marion to death. This shower scene has become one of the most iconic scenes in all of film history.

Making people think twice about taking a shower

Making people think twice about taking a shower

After Marion’s death, her boyfriend is contacted by Marion’s sister Lila and Detective Milton Arbogast, who was hired by the bank to find Marion and the stolen money. They head out and wind up at the always vacant Bate’s Motel where they stay and realize the truth. Norman, who is seemingly an average, normal man to most is a, well, psycho, who has dressed up like his deceased mother and killed Marion. Not only is Norman a crazed murder, he thinks that his deceased mother, who’s corpse is in his house, is telling him who to kill. The movie ends with Norman in police custody, talking to himself in his head.


Norman is anything but normal

Norman is anything but normal

After the success of Psycho, it was almost guaranteed that others would try to capitalize off of that success. The original film was followed by Psycho II in 1983 which saw Norman released from a psychiatric hospital and continue his murderous rampage, eventually reopening his beloved motel. That sequel was followed by 1986’s Psycho III. In the third installment of the series, Norman Bates is back in business with the motel and soon begins murdering the people that cross his path. Then, finally, in 1990, the original series came to an end with Psycho IV: The Beginning. This time, Norman talks with a talk-show host about his past with his mother and his murderous rampage that followed. This would mark the end of the original franchise and thankfully so. None of the sequels would ever measure up to the original and that is understood. The original is a classic. But what would come next was possibly even worse than the lackluster sequels.

In 1998, director Gus Van Sant remade, almost exactly shot-for-shot, the original film. The film starred Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates, Anne Heche as Marion Crane, and Julianne Moore as Lila. While the remake was almost exactly like the original, except for it being in color, it was mostly viewed as a failure and pointless. The end seemed to have arrived for Norman Bates. And until 2013, it was. But then a TV series came out that restored interest in the world’s worst motel owner.


Norman of the new age

Norman of the new age

In 2013, A&E began airing Bate’s Motel,a series that looks at an adolescent Norman Bates and his mother but in a modern setting. The series stars Freddie Highmore as the young Norman Bates and Vera Farmiga as Mrs. Bates. In the show’s first season, the audience sees a mostly calm Norman dealing with the same issues that every other teenager deals with. But as the season progresses, we get to see Mrs. Bates’ affect on Norman more and more and Norman’s violent tendencies start to show. With the end of the first season, Norman has started to look like the Norman we always knew and I am sure he will go even crazier when season 2 starts next year.


Dude looks like a lady. But don't tell him that!

Dude looks like a lady. But don’t tell him that!

Sure, Vince Vaughn played Norman in the remake. And Freddie Highmore is currently playing the teenage Norman in the television series Bate’s Motel. But everyone who loves the original Psycho and its sequels knows that the late Anthony Perkins is the man who made Norman Bates the most feared mamma’s boy in cinematic history. Perkins made his movie debut in 1953 with the film The Actress and three years later was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in the film Friendly Persuasion. Perkins has over 40 acting credits to his name but will always be best known for his portrayal of Norman Bates. Besides playing Bates in the first four films of the series, Perkins also stepped behind the camera to direct Psycho III. Sadly, Perkins passed away in 1992 from AIDS-related pneumonia, just two years after he last portrayed Norman Bates.


As Halloween draws closer, so does the end of this Horror’s Icons series. We have looked at so many faces from the horror genre and we have almost come to the end of the line. With Halloween next week, we have two entries left in the series. The last one will be released on Halloween day and the next one a week from now. And with the next entry, I will take a ride back to the past and look some of the first faces of horror. We will look at the George Washington and Abe Lincoln’s of the horror genre. Next week, get ready to look at 5 of the Universal Monsters that started it all. That’s right. Next week, we take a look at Dracula, The Mummy, Frankenstein’s monster, The Wolfman, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. But until then, thanks for reading again.


the D