This is, without a doubt, the most accurate biographical crime/drama/thriller about the notorious grave-robbing, mother-worshipping, cannibal artist-of-death, Ed Gein.
I love this fucking movie. This is coming from someone who has had a fascination with true-crime since I was forcibly removed from my mother’s warm, wet coffin of a hole. Yes, I’ve seen Deranged: Confessions of a Necrophile which while being a fine chunk of cinema, it takes far too many liberties to be considered biographical. What’s that? Did I watch the abomination that was Ed Gein: The Butcher of Plainfield? Ugh. I don’t even know where to begin. Casting a beefy, 6’ 3” Kane Hodder as Ed Gein makes about as much sense as taking a dump all over your breakfast, but hey whatever; to each his own – salute. It’s just not my cup of tea. In fact, I couldn’t even make it halfway into the movie before turning it off in complete repulsion. The distaste I felt over cashing in on his name and refusing to do any homework was overwhelming. Why not just cast Edith Massey as Marilyn while you’re at it? Let’s all just forget about reality and shit out whatever we can in the hopes of making a few quick bucks because the audience is clearly comprised of automatons who will swallow whatever we feed them!
Yea, uhhh. No.
Thank the devil for the capable hands of Chuck Parello! When this was released as soon as I saw the cast I had no choice but to get excited. Steve Railsback is a damn fine actor; not only did he kill it in cult favorites Helter Skelter, Lifeforce and Turkey Shoot but he has a way of being the most memorable character on screen even in his smallest of roles. And the same can be said of the late Carrie Snodgrass (Diary of a Mad Housewife, The Fury, Pale Rider) who personifies ‘religious harpy’ as the iron-willed matriarch of the Gein household.
A lot of people seem to be under the misguided notion that Ed Gein was a serial killer, when in actuality he only murdered two people. He spent the majority of his time robbing graves and making cute little vulva keepsakes as well as practical things like nipple-belts and skin-lampshades. His nocturnal travels, the ‘artwork’ he created from exhumed corpses – his complete and utter devotion to his mother – the way gender twisted in his mind to incorporate him wearing a ‘woman suit’ made from the tanned hides of dead women – the concurrently inhuman and childlike manner with which he seemed to view the world; thankfully, these are explored at great length in this film.
Written by Stephen Johnston (Bundy; The Hillside Strangler) and admirably directed by Chuck Parello this film excels in its commitment to facts and its understated creepiness. They don’t go for the throat with cheap jumps and obviousness; they cuddle up next to you slowly; inch by inch, minute by minute and surround you in a thick, unsettling fog of subtle horror.
Ed’s down-home, “awww-shucks” brand of simple-minded insanity is played brilliantly by Railsback. There are lines delivered in this movie that I still quote with excited regularity. “I can handle myself around the likes of Ed Gein!” being a particular favorite. Why someone hasn’t sampled the shit out of this movie is beyond me.
So many films have been made off of the sweat from Gein’s brow (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Silence of the Lambs, Psycho) but none have had the balls to play it straight. You don’t need to doctor up the truth; and what really makes this film is its solid foundation in reality and the powerhouse performances of Railsback and Snodgrass (no offense to the supporting cast, everyone is wonderful).
Any movie out there can get points on shock value and by twisting the truth into an unrecognizable entity; there’s always an audience for that. But for those of us out there who understand that the true horrors in this world have actually happened and are happening right now there’s nothing more refreshing than a film that has not only the desire but is blessed with the talent to dive in and explore what creates these everyday, neighborly monsters.
This film has heart, it was made with integrity from an especially talented cast and crew and I whole-heartedly recommend it to anyone with an interest in Ed Gein, true crime or horror.
Official COSDS Nunspank Rating:
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Jocelyn lives on 35 acres of woodland in an undisclosed Appalachian location. When not boozing it up or fighting the power she's tending her organic garden or collecting punk/soundtrack albums. Her best friends walk on 4 legs. She does not own a cell phone.