Film: Ed Gein
Director: Chuck Parello
Writer: Stephen Johnston
Starring: Steve Railsback, Carrie Snodgress and Carol Mansell
This film begins with old newsreel type footage, now I am not sure if these are actors or if this is real interviews of people from the area where Ed Gein lived. They say how he was such a nice guy and they are shocked at what he did. The thing is that none of them have been to his house.
We then shift to a couple who are in a cemetery. They sit on a bench and begin to kiss. This is cut short when they hear something. They get spooked and leave. As it turns out, Steve Railsback, who is the title character, is digging up a grave. He opens it and speaks to the person inside.
It is the next morning. There is a knock at his door and he answers it. It is two boys. Railsback actually babysits them. His house is messy and there are weird things everywhere, including newspaper on the windows. The younger of the two boys goes into Railsback’s room and finds the severed heads behind the door. He screams. Railsback and the other boy come upstairs. The younger tells them about the rats and the heads. Railback is angry the boy is in his room and doesn’t understand why they are so shocked to see the heads. He states that it is about time they leave and it might be a good thing they do not come back.
We get some of his history throughout the film. He lived with his father, Bill Cross, his mother Carrie Snodgress and his brother, the adult played by Brian Evers. Cross gets sick and dies. His brother dies soon after and we learn it is due to an argument between Railsback and Evers. Railsback was a quiet and timid boy and his father was very hard on him. His mother was too, but he loved his mother more than a boy should. When she died, he did everything he could to bring her back and was devastated.
He works with a man who is also his best friend, played by Craig Zimmerman. His parents are played by Jan Hoag and Lee McLaughlin. They take Railsback in; give him dinner since they know he is all alone. This is a pretty tight knit community.
Railsback and Zimmerman go to a local bar to hang out; it is run by a woman played by Sally Champlin. She is vulgar, but everyone loves her. Railsback even has a crush on her. The problem is that Railsback’s mother was very religious. She has pounded this into his head for most of his life.
There is also a local store that is owned by Carol Mansell and ran by Steve Blackwood. Mansell’s husband has died. Railsback has a crush on her as well, being more that she reminds him of his mother.
Railsback has issues where he either wants to be a woman or is doing everything he can to bring back his mother. Railsback has begun to dig up the dead and bring parts of their bodies back to his home. He uses parts of them to make different things in his house. He has also started to create a suit that he can wear that will make him into a woman. While wearing it, he dances around in the moonlight and beats a drum made of skin and metal.
Railsback goes even more off the deep end when he sees a burning bush out in the woods. It has the face of his mother in the flames and it is similar to the one she read to him from the bible. It tells Railsback that he needs to kill Champlin, because of the way she is and the way she talks.
Railsback tries to resist, but he wants Snodgress back. He tries to sell his house, but the state of it turns away the only potential buyer. He ends up shooting Champlin when she is closing up and takes her back to his place. She survives at first, but without medical care, she passes on. Soon after, Railsback actually sees Snodgress. She wants him to kill Mansell as well. Will he do it to make mother happy? Will he realize what he is doing before it is too late? Will he be stopped or will he continue to kill?
I have to say that I have seen a few different takes on the Ed Gein story as well as parts of it taken for other films, examples: Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Psycho. I have also seen Deranged, which is another take on it. This film is very similar to this one, but I do believe, from what I know, this one is closer to the real story. I do like that. I think the acting is good as well. Railsback does great at getting into the character of Gein. I also think Snodgress is great as that overbearing, overly religious mother and has a great nagging voice for the role. I also think that Mansell and Champlin were good in how they played their characters. The supporting cast around them did a solid job too. The film is paced well and moves along, but I think that is helped by a low running time. I also love that everyone thinks Railsback is such a sweet man that none of them can believe he is behind the first disappearance, even when he admits it to them.
I do have a few issues with the film though. By being based on a true story, it is limited to what it can do and I got that feel from this. There isn’t a lot that happens, which goes back to following the true story, and I think that takes a little away for me. There are also some issues with the realism of gunshots, but this is not a huge glaring error for me. These do take away from my overall rating though.
All in all, I would say that this is a pretty good biographical horror film. Gein was a sick man, but without with him we would not have gotten some of the classic horror films. His story is nowhere near as exciting as the ones based on him, but still is interesting to see. This one does a great job at following his life. Railsback is spot on in his portrayal and he is supported by some good acting. The story moves along well, but it is not overly exciting. Don’t expect a lot of action, but if you want to know the truth and the horror about Gein and what he did, I would say to give this one a viewing. If not, I might avoid this and go for one of the films based loosely on him that will have a better story, scarier or gorier; I would check one of them out instead.
My Rating: 6 out of 10