THE LAST EXORCISM/THE HAUNTING OF BATES HOTEL: A DOUBLE BILL OF GRISLY HORROR FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

LastExorcismInterviewLeadTHE LAST EXORCISM and THE HAUNTING OF BATES HOTEL: A DOUBLE BILL OF GRISLY HORROR FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE LAST EXORCISM. (2010) DIRECTED BY DANIEL STAMM. PRODUCED BY ELI ROTH. STARRING PATRICK FABIAN, ASHLEY BELL, CALEB LANDRY JONES AND LOUIS HERTHUM.

THE HAUNTING OF BATES HOTEL. (2012) DIRECTED BY BYRON TURK. STARRING JEAN LOUISE O’SULLIVAN, DANTE ZUCCA AND ZACHARY FLETCHER.

I bought both of these films to watch over the recent Saint Patrick’s Day holiday weekend here in Oireland, hence the double review today. While I always enjoy watching horror that’s new to me, however ropey, I must confess that I found one of these films to be possibly the worst horror film I’ve ever seen, while the other one baffled me at first but grew to be a strong finisher. Want to know which one is which? Stay tuned and I promise to tell all…!

Well, here I am telling all as promised, haha. I’ll start with THE HAUNTING OF BATES HOTEL. Being as I am a lifelong fan of Alfred Hitchcock’s legendary horror film PSYCHO  (1960) and the book by Robert Bloch from which it derived, I admit I bought this film for the PSYCHO connection and also for the cover of the DVD box.

The cover features a building not unlike the home that Norman Bates shared with his ‘Mother.’ In an upstairs window, a woman is clearly silhouetted holding a knife. To my eternal disgust, THE HAUNTING OF BATES MOTEL has about as much to do with PSYCHO as GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS has to do with crocheting and needlework. I was deeply, deeply disappointed.

The film is set in an existing real-life horror attraction called the Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride. It’s situated in rural Pennsylvania on a place called Arasapha Farm and television star Bam Margera is seen advertising the Halloween attraction for real at the film’s outset.

In the film, a beautiful young woman called Agnes Rickover goes to work at this attraction to try to recover from a trauma she experienced there a year ago, namely the death of her best friend Lily (an employee of the attraction’s) who burned horribly on the Haunted Hayride.

People start dying ‘mysteriously’ around the Park pretty much on Agnes’s first shift. She determines to get to the bottom of both Lily’s death and the deaths of the other Park employees also. She enlists the aid of her cute but relectant writer friend Clyde to do this. I don’t want to give too much of the lame ‘plot’ away so I’ll just say this. The ‘who’ is pretty obvious. The ‘why’ is never revealed. I want my tenner back.

THE LAST EXORCISM is much more promising and worthwhile although, again, the DVD box features a scene that’s not even in the movie. Sigh. That always annoys me, even though it happens fairly frequently. At least the film inside was worth the ninety or so minutes of my life.

The Reverend Cotton Marcus, hailing from Baton Rouge, Louisiana and as smug and self-satisfied a character as you’ll find in any film, has been performing exorcisms since he was knee-high to a grasshopper. In this ‘found footage’ supernatural horror film, he admits freely to the public, through a documentary he’s allowing to be filmed about him, that he no longer believes in demons.

Say what? That’s right, folks. A medical issue caused him to lose his faith, but he still continues to perform fake exorcisms as a sort of placebo for the people who think they’re possessed by the devil. In other words, if they think he’s curing ’em, he really is curing ’em, if you follow me, It’s purely the placebo effect but, if it works, isn’t he doing them a favour rather than a disservice…?

Anyway, in this ‘documentary,’ he reveals all the tricks of his trade, such as phoney demon noises and making objects move and fall over by using wires. If this was a real documentary, it’d be hard not to be utterly sickened and disgusted by the tricks being played upon individuals who genuinely believe that they’re possessed by the devil. Still, it’s just a film. Isn’t it…?

Cotton’s camera crew follow him to the Sweetzer farm, where the Dad of the family tells them that he thinks his sixteen-year-old daughter Nell is possessed by a demon. Against the wishes of Nell’s brother Caleb, Cotton, filmed by his crew of Iris and Danny, duly performs a phoney exorcism on the pleasant and obliging young girl.

A few phoney demon noises later and Bob’s your Uncle, or so Cotton thinks. Imagine his shock when he’s confronted by evidence of a genuine possesion taking place inside the body and soul of the home-schooled young lady. Things take a distinctly creepy turn as Cotton and his crew discover that they’ve bitten off way more than they can chew with Cotton’s so-called ‘LAST EXORCISM…’

I was scared once or twice by this film, which is a good sign, although of course by now I know what to expect from exorcism films. Projectile vomiting or spewing, heads and bodies twisting to unnatural angles and girls with long dark hair and white nightdresses scuttling up walls and speaking in tongues.

It’s always the same, isn’t it, and this film is no different, although it’s still good. Show me a possession film where the possessed person is a balding, middle-aged businessman with a paunch and a wart on his face and I’ll show you a possession film with a difference. Don’t think it’s gonna happen, though. Not while girls with long dark hair and white nighties are still selling horror flicks.

A rather Dennis Wheatley-esque ending, which I quite enjoyed, completes the picture. I’d definitely recommend giving this one a watch. Not so, sadly, in the case of THE HAUNTING OF BATES MOTEL. Use it to prop up a wonky table, by all means, but that’s about all it’s good for. I just hope and pray that Alfred Hitchcock hasn’t seen it on the flatscreen television in the elegant and comfortable lounge of the afterlife. He’d certainly be turning in his grave.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

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PSYCHO 3/PSYCHO 4: THE BEGINNING- A TERRIFYING DOUBLE REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

psycho3hPSYCHO 3 AND PSYCHO 4: THE BEGINNING- A TWO-FOR-THE-PRICE-OF-ONE JOINT REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

PSYCHO 3. (1986) BASED ON CHARACTERS CREATED BY ROBERT BLOCH. DIRECTED BY ANTHONY PERKINS. WRITTEN BY CHARLES EDWARD POGUE. MUSIC BY CARTER BURWELL. CINEMATOGRAPHY BY BRUCE SURTEES. STARRING ANTHONY PERKINS, JEFF FAHEY AND DIANA SCARWID.

PSYCHO 4: THE BEGINNING. (1990) BASED ON CHARACTERS CREATED BY ROBERT BLOCH. DIRECTED BY MICK GARRIS. WRITTEN BY JOSEPH STEFANO. MUSIC BY GRAEME REVELL AND BERNARD HERRMANN (HIS ORIGINAL SCORE). STARRING ANTHONY PERKINS, C.C.H. POUNDER, OLIVIA HUSSEY AND HENRY THOMAS.

The late great director Alfred Hitchcock kicked off this whole hoop-la in 1960 when he brought Robert Bloch’s novel PSYCHO to the big screen in spectacular style. The original movie famously marked a new beginning for cinema in terms of how much gore, violence and sexual deviancy directors were allowed to show the viewers in their work. Quite a lot, apparently, haha.

The sequel, filmed three years after Alfred Hitchcock’s death in 1980, is a fantastically fun romp of which I’m convinced Hitchcock would have whole-heartedly approved. It even stars the lovely Vera Miles, reprising her role as Marion Crane’s younger sister Lila who’s hellbent on making Norman pay for his crimes. I can honestly say that it’s the most fun I’ve ever had watching a sequel, and one of those rare occasions on which, for me, the sequel nearly surpasses the brilliant original.

PSYCHO 3 takes up the story literally only a month or so where PSYCHO 2 left off. Creepy, disturbed transvestite Norman Bates is still living in the big creepy house above the Bates Motel. He has a new ‘Mother’ installed in the front bedroom and she’s bossing her little Normie around just like he’s used to (and comfortable with, haha.) He also has a nosey reporter shadowing him and trying to ferret out the whereabouts of a missing old lady about whom I shall say nothing further, heh-heh-heh…

Norman has a new temporary motel manager too, the handsome, sexy and sexually promiscuous Duane ‘watch the guitar’ Duke, and a new tenant-slash-friend-slash-possible lover in the form of mentally-disturbed runaway nun Maureen Coil. Maureen is ably played by Diana Scarwid, who is also known for portraying Joan Crawford’s grown-up daughter Christina in the famously uncomplimentary biopic, MOMMIE DEAREST (1981). God, how I love that movie…!

The funniest scene in this film is when the suicidal Sister Maureen thinks that Norman, dressed up as his Ma with a big old glinty knife in his hand, is the Virgin Mary come to save her from death. Boy, is she way off…! Norman as saviour instead of murderer? That’s certainly a new angle.

I also love the scene when the Sheriff is helping himself to some ice from the cooler outside the Motel and he doesn’t realise that it’s more than ice that he’s putting into his mouth… Eeuw!

Another hilarious scene is when Mother goes missing after a police raid on the Bates house. Norman’s running around the house frantically searching for her when he finds a note from her telling him that she’s in Cabin Twelve of the motel. What the hell does Norman find when he gets to Cabin Twelve? You’ll have to watch the film to find out, horror fans.

My favourite scene in this third film in the franchise, though, doesn’t have any killing or blood in it at all. It’s a shot of the old neglected Bates house before all the action kicks off. The birds are twittering around as they always do, pooping on the bird-table and everywhere else, and the whole house and little bit of scrubby garden just look so dry and dusty, unloved and deserted. Dead ‘Mothers’ certainly don’t do yardwork. The scene is perfectly set for some murderous shenanigans.

PSYCHO 3 may not reach the dizzying heights of the original film or even the first sequel but it’s still a terrifically fun watch and I absolutely loved it. The lovely old sheriff from PSYCHO 2 is in it again:

‘I was FOR you, Norman. I believed in you. They’ll never let you out again…!’ The staff of the diner are back again too and overall, the whole film is perfectly in keeping with the feel of the second one to which it’s a direct follow-up.

PSYCHO 4: THE BEGINNING is a different story. It’s a completely different kettle of fish, you might say. It’s one of those new-fangled ‘prequels.’  We’re expected to believe that Norman is out of the mental institution once more, for good this time.

Not only that, but he’s living in a lovely home far away from the Bates Motel and he’s got a wife too, who works as a psychiatrist which is how they met, and they have a baby on the way…! What the dickens is going on…? Can this be the Norman Bates we’ve grown to love… and fear?

Moreover, he’s managed to achieve all this in just a few short years. Excuse me for being just a teeny bit sceptical. Norman Bates as a productive, normal member of society, making love normally and in a way conducive to begetting an offspring? Do me a favour…!

Norman is telling his story through a series of gruesome flashbacks to Fran Ambrose, a no-nonsense lady who shoots from the hip. She also happens to be a popular radio talk-show host who’s doing a show on Men Who Kill Their Mothers. I really like the character of Fran. She’s smart, intuitive and bound to rattle a few cages with her show on murderous Mummy’s Boys.

Naturally, as Norman is the poster-boy for this particular group of degenerates, the producers are creaming themselves (excuse my French!) over their new caller and his grim tale of child abuse, gender confusion and double murder by strychnine-poisoning.

Possibly the most unbelievable thing about Norman’s story is the casting of Olivia Hussey as Norma Bates. From everything we’ve ever known about Norman’s Mumsie, she is surely not stunningly beautiful with fabulous long silky hair straight out of a shampoo commercial, is she?

Furthermore, surely she does not sit around the house in silky lingerie and kimonos sipping Long Island Iced Teas in the middle of the day when there’s work to be done and she almost certainly does not talk in that annoying, phoney-baloney British accent. There, I’ve said it, haha. What do you guys think?

Also, if Norma is supposed to be so sexually repressed and the product of her practically Victorian-style upbringing, why then is she being portrayed as the biggest slut in Christendom? Riddle me that, screenwriters!

Still, the more I watch this final sequel, the more I get used to her and begin to believe her performance. I don’t mind admitting when I’m wrong, if that’s what’s surprising you guys. I may have judged the lady a little harshly initially. Sorry, Ms. Hussey…!

Anyway, she’s not a great mother, this Norma Bates. She probably loves her son and only child Norman deep down but she’s dreadfully inconsistent with him, hugging him and laughing with him one minute and screaming at him hysterically the next.

Her behaviour towards him is sexually inappropriate as well. Getting him to ‘blot her with her flower-water’ indeed! He has to rub cooling lotion on her semi-naked body and then she berates him for getting the inevitable erection.

After seeming to do her utmost to arouse him sexually, she forces him to dress in womens’ clothing in a crazed attempt to make him ‘forget’ he has a penis. As if a guy would ever forget that…!

The film-makers had a real chance here to portray Norman’s messed-up childhood and show us exactly why Norman ended up as he did. When I first watched this film, I felt that instead, they’d gone down another route entirely and that the resulting film was a bizarre, sometimes baffling mish-mash of vignettes and flash-backs that frequently didn’t make sense and that had more than their fair share of plot-holes.

After watching the film a few times and, as I said, getting used to Olivia Hussey as ‘Mother,’ I decided that Norman’s weirdness and murderous tendencies first as a confused teenager and then as an adult male had pretty much been perfectly adequately explained. Who wouldn’t have grown up deranged after a head-wrecking upbringing like the one that he had? That’s what his Mother was, an absolute head-wrecker of a woman, slapping him with one hand and stroking him with the other.

Check out what happens to Norman’s first ‘girlfriend,’ a slutty young lady who gets more than she bargains for when she decides that she’s attracted to the young Norman Bates. Check out the rather brilliant final scenes as well, when poor Norman is deluded enough to think that he can actually escape the ghosts of his past. What Norman’s got to accept is that, with a past like his, you don’t get to ever escape it. You just have to learn to live with it somehow…

This last film in the franchise is by no means a flawless movie like the first three, but a PSYCHO sequel is a PSYCHO sequel and I’m still glad we have it. C.C.H. Pounder does a great job as the sympathetic radio-show host and I’m always happy to see Anthony Perkins portray Norman Bates, even if the film is a trifle inferior to its elder siblings.

I hope one day to see a film that shows us what happens when Norman’s son or daughter grows up. Will he or she be as flawed and dysfunctional as the genes that spawned them? How could they not be? No-one seems to have committed to this project as yet but maybe one day they will. What fun and games we’ll have then, PSYCHO fans…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor