It’s a little creepy to realize that some of our favorite horror movies might actually be based around real stories. Psycho for instance is apparently based on the story of Ed Gein, as described by Kara Hedash of ScreenRant, and the similarities are simply too grisly to ignore. The fact that Hitchcock looked at the book that had been written of Gein’s crimes and said “Oh this looks interesting” is kind of disturbing to some, but the mind of a storyteller doesn’t generally discriminate a lot of times when it comes to thinking what would make a chilling tale or what might be an inspiration in the making. It’s unnerving isn’t it? Those of us that write might be taking our cues from history, no matter how unsettling it might be, and those that act out the parts are forced to delve into a part of their psyche that they might convince themselves is based solely on the need for a convincing act. When you look at things from this perspective it gets a bit chilling really since all in all it would mean that a lot of people are a lot more unbalanced than we might seem in the daylight. But creativity and imagination breeds as many monsters as it does inspirational and heroic figures, just like real life.
Margo Margaritoff from All That’s Interesting gives a long and pretty accurate description of Gein’s life that tells of an individual that, much like Norman Bates, was a victim from a young age in that he was ruled by a tyrannical mother and a complacent father. While he had a brother at one point his sibling died in an accidental fire it seems and as a result Gein was stuck with his mother, who passed not too long after. But what was found later on after she was gone is what was truly chilling since Gein became known as one of the most deranged minds in the world when people were allowed to truly poke into his life and lay bare the atrocities he’d committed. I won’t go into full detail, but there are moments in Gein’s life that would make some of the most hardcore killers blush or vomit simply because of the heinous nature of the man’s crimes. From exhuming bodies to do unspeakable things with them to keeping his mother’s room pristine while the rest of his home went to hell and gone, Gein became the type of person that most people would gladly look at with suspicion since there was something that felt wrong about him, a quality that said that he didn’t belong in any given society.
You might wonder as to just why anyone would bother to create a movie that had anything to do with such a despicable person, but then you’d be condemning just about every movie to ever come across the screen, big or small, since in truth a lot of what we see in Hollywood has some basis in reality, even if it’s fantasy or science fiction. Almost nothing is outside the scope of a writer and as a result there will be hints of realism throughout each and every movie, and in some ways the audience loves this since it keeps things grounded and allows them to think that the movie, no matter if it’s based on a real story or not, is something that they can find a way to relate to and therefore enjoy because it’s not going to challenge them in a fundamental way that has no basis on the world they know. Writers tend to pander to the sensibilities of the crowd, reality doesn’t.
Plus, taking stories such as this and making them into fictional tales or making them into documentaries isn’t all about shock value and keeping the public entertained in a morbid and, in some cases, ethically ambiguous manner. It’s a means of reminding people that real evil does exist in the world, that we don’t live in a perfect utopia where everyone gets along and things are always bound to make sense. Norman Bates isn’t the first killer to be based on a real-life account and he won’t be the last since in the history of humanity one of the many things that we’ve always managed to do is relay tragedy in a manner that we can understand, agree with, and even appreciate. Glorifying killers is something that many can agree isn’t necessarily a good idea, but reminding people that they did exist serves a couple of purposes. One is that the more they’re mentioned and the more their crimes are laid out, the terror they created has less and less power over us as people. The second of course is to use them for entertainment value since shock value is still a strong selling point for horror. In that regard, Ed Gein is one of the most effective killers to ever make his way into the annals of American history.