Glenn here. Can I talk a little bit more about Alfred Hitchcock? After all, he was born on this day 114 years ago and it's pretty astounding that his works are still being mimicked, adapted and homaged to this day. So few classic directors can be spoken about in this day and age and still have new and interesting things to be said. My personal favourite is Psycho (1960), but then I've always had a softer spot for his more pulpy work. Think of others like The Birds (1963) and The 39 Steps (1935) for instance. He's known for refined, classy, adult thrillers, the likes of which are barely made today, but it was his embrace of genre that continues to impress me the most. He supposedly hated horror movies and wanted to go about reinventing them. It's hard to deny he succeeded.
Several sequels followed, including Psycho II, which is actually quite impressive if still nowhere near the genius of Hitchcock's original. That one was directed by Richard Franklin who, much like Brian DePalma, frequently lifts Hitchcock wholesale for his own movies to sometimes incredible effect (see Road Games with Stacy Keach and Jamie Lee Curtis for a rather fantastic open road retelling of Rear Window). I'm also a huge, huge fan of Gus Van Sant's much-maligned 1998 remake starring Vince Vaughn, Anne Heche, Julianne Moore and Viggo Mortensen. It's the last mainstream experimental film and the very reason people hate it is why I think it works so well.
And now in 2013 Psycho has been reinvented once more in the form of A&E's Bates Motel.
A preposterously absurd, but wickedly entertaining series that reposits Norma and Norman Bates to the modern day and surrounds them in all sorts of wacky, grisly, mysterious events. It's a prequel and it's fun watching the writers insert little bits and pieces from the movie into the plot: Norman learns taxidermy! Norma fights city planners to keep a bypass from being constructed! Norman has "blackouts"! It's not subtle, but I was entertained so much by the first season that I can't wait to see how the show weaves its way towards the ultimate conclusion. Mother won't be happy. As Gawker succinctly put it:
[Like] Jessica Lange on the first season of American Horror Story... there's something about macabre television that brings the best-worst out of its women."
What's curious about Bates Motel, however, is that despite its origins as a riff on Psycho, it is David Lynch's Twin Peaks that the show most resembles. And deliberately so. Bates Motel is like the unofficial sequel to that groundbreaking prime time murder mystery soap opera of the early 1990s that we never knew was coming. The action of Bates Motel has been moved from California to the same region as Twin Peaks, it's set in a small town where murders and drug dealing and all sorts of illegal activity take place below the surface just like Twin Peaks, and there's a secret diary of sorts that the high school kids try to solve just like Twin Peaks. The series even utilised Twin Peaks iconography in its marketing, not to mention favoured Lynchian directorial trademarks like buzzing neon and car accidents.
I recently returned from Twin Peaks Fest, a fan convention held in the town where Peaks and its cinematic prequel were films. It was basically one of the greatest weekends of my life, but while I was there I asked if any of the other Twin Peaks obsessives had watched the show. They hadn't, but I hope they do. I can't imagine Alfred Hitchcock would have liked it all that much, but it stands as one of the zanier and more entertaining ways that the Master of Suspence's legacy lives on.