“Bates Motel” is the modernized prequel to the greatest thriller of all time: Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” The new show follows the tragic lives of Norman Bates and his emotionally abusive mother before he goes psycho, kills her and mummifies her body.
The story begins when Norman finds his father dead. In hopes of a fresh start, his mother purchases a foreclosed motel and moves the family away from its old home.
Norman Bates is played by Freddie Highmore, most easily recognized as Charlie from the Johnny Depp version of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” This casting decision brings a youthful twist to the 1960 horror film.
Highmore does a fantastic job of keeping the fundamental traits of Anthony Perkins’ original portrayal intact. He’s shy and off-putting, but quirky and cheeky enough to give the creepy charm Norman is most remembered for.
Oscar-nominated actress Vera Farmiga plays his mother, Norma Bates. Farmiga has acted in horror movies, comedies and dramas. This experience gives her the skills necessary to play such a demanding role without seeming overacted.
In A&E’s version, Norma is the true psycho.
Norma is not only Norman’s inspiration for murder, she is his teacher. Without giving away too many spoilers, it’s safe to say Norman is not the only killer.
While the show places the classic flick in modern times, the relationship between Norman and his mother is timeless and oddly relatable. The show reminds all men that even though we love women, we are innately terrified of them — and that’s because of our mothers.
The first episode is available at www.aetv.com and on the A&E mobile app. Future episodes air at 10 p.m. Mondays on A&E.