Steve Railsback (Ed Gein)
Carrie Snodgress (Augusta)
Carol Mansell (Collette Marshall)
Ryan Thomas Brockington (Ed at 16)
Austin James Peck (Ed at 10)
Bill Cross (George Gein)
Brian Evers (Henry Gein)
Rick Simpson (Henry aged 20)
Luke Rowland (Henry aged 14)
Sally Champlin (Mary Hogan)
Travis McKenna (Ronnie)
Nancy Linehan Charles (Eleanor)
Jan Hoag (Irene Hill)
Craig Zimmerman (Pete Anderson)
Lee McLaughlin (Warren Hill)
Pat Skipper (Sheriff Jim Stillwell)
mpaa rating: none
release: May 4, 2001
availability: VHS -
The true story of the real
The real-life inspiration for
Chainsaw Massacre), Norman Bates, and Buffalo Bill (Silence
of the Lambs), that's who. In the '50s in Wisconsin,
he did creative things with human remains, including dressing
up in women's skins. He died in an institution in 1984.
if not for this sick bastard, the horror genre would be minus
three enduring icons.
Yep. Of course, Tobe Hooper,
Robert Bloch, and Thomas Harris embellished a bit. Aside
from his bizarre proclivities, ol' Ed was a pretty dull guy.
that mean this is a pretty dull movie?
Not at all; it tries for, and
occasionally achieves, the same sort of queasy, drab, kitchen-sink
realism as Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. As well
it should, since it shares that film's music composer and editor,
and its director, Chuck Parello, also did the sequel to Henry.
Is it as
good as Henry?
Not quite. That's why I said
"occasionally." It does boast a peerlessly creepy performance
by Steve Railsback, who embodies Ed just as indelibly as he portrayed
Charles Manson in Helter Skelter 25 years ago. What's
good about the movie is essentially all Railsback (also a producer
on the film): his blank amiability, his hapless attempts to connect
with people, and especially a sequence of such ghastly black
humor -- Ed giggling like a kid while trying on a variety of
severed noses -- that I won't forget it any time soon.
The whole mama's-boy thing
gets tiresome (Carrie Snodgress plays Ed's viciously religious
mother in flashbacks -- and hallucinations, egging Ed on to take
care of those "filthy whores"). We've simply seen the
Psycho Got That Way Because of His Nutty Punitive Bible-Thumping
Mama thing in too many other movies.
no MPAA rating on this. Is it that gross?
Not in terms of overt onscreen
violence. You do see lots of aftermath, though -- a woman's body
dressed out like a deer; a disembodied vagina lying on a kitchen
counter; Ed dancing in the moonlight wearing his special costume.
The murders themselves are bland gunshot affairs; the true horrors
tries to be a serious movie about Ed Gein?
And, again, mostly succeeds
(it's not the movie's fault, really, that everyone under the
sun co-opted the Religious Mama thing). It has a low-simmering
intensity, but there aren't really any powerful moments like
the original Henry's several bowel-loosening moments.
Henry was unafraid to dive headlong into tabloid territory
(think of the ugly montage of Henry's trail of corpses in the
first five minutes); Ed Gein mostly minds its manners.
Certainly it's the mildest biopic of a cannibalistic necrophiliac
you'll ever see. It's far from a horror movie as everyone usually
defines "horror movie." You don't see Ed going wacky
with a chainsaw, or anything.
this didn't get a real theatrical release. Any idea why?
Uh, because studios are populated
by idiots? Serious, artful movies like this and Ginger Snaps
go straight to video in America, while studios are happy to roll
out smegma like Valentine
and Soul Survivors on 2,000 screens. Its lack of an MPAA
rating probably didn't help, either.