ED GEIN (aka: IN THE LIGHT OF THE MOON) (director: Chuck Parello; screenwriter: Stephen Johnston; cinematographer: Vanja Cernjul; editor: Elena Maganini; music: Robert McNaughton; cast: Steve Railsback (Ed Gein), Carrie Snodgress (Augusta Gein), Carol Mansell (Collette Marshall), Sally Champlin (Mary Hogan), Steve Blackwood (Brian), Pat Skipper (Sheriff Jim Stillwell), Craig Zimmerman (Pete Anderson), Travis McKenna (Ronnie), Brian Evers (Henry Gein), Nancy Linehan Charles (Eleanor Adams), Bill Cross (George Gein); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Hamish McAlpine/Michael Muscal; Tartan Films; 2001)
“Never going past being creepy and unsettling.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Some serial killers stick out more than others. One such a sicko is real-life ‘Wisconsin necrophile’ Ed Gein, who was arrested in 1957 and found legally insane (paranoid schizophrenia) and spent the rest of his life in a prison mental hospital where he died in 1984 from natural causes. Because of his macabre grisly murders and cannibalism (charged with only the mutilation murders of two women, but there were undoubtedly many more as his farmhouse was littered with body parts) he’s mentioned as the basis behind a number of richly drawn over-the-top psycho movie characters; such as, Norman Bates in Psycho (1960), the family in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and Wild Bill in The Silence of the Lambs (1991). Gein’s story was filmed before as the superior Deranged (1974), but only this film dedicates its character study completely to the facts surrounding his bizarre murder spree.
Chuck Parello (“Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer Part 2″/”The Hillside Strangler”), for the most part, never brings purpose or life or tension to the film but in fits and starts. He keeps things dodgy, never going past being creepy and unsettling. In trying to make some psychological statement, not much really comes through that doesn’t seem exploitative or just saying the obvious that Gein was one sick boy (which can just about sum up where this film was going). Writer Steve Johnston doesn’t quite seem to know in what direction to take the narrative and opts to keep it as an American Gothic tale. He has Gein talking neighborly normal to his bar buddies and to the local shopkeepers, while privately talking weirdly to his nine-years-dead religious fanatical fundamentalist Christian mother (Carrie Snodgrass), or having flashbacks of his domineering shrewish mom reading the Bible to him, or of his abusive father (Bill Cross) treating him like dirt, or of how in a fit of anger over a slur about his mom killing his older adult brother Henry (Brian Evers) with a rifle butt to the head. Though the performance by Steve Railsback as Gein is convincingly spooky (he was also the producer), the film was too depressing to be either entertaining or enlightening or something one had to see.
Ed Gein is a loner in the small town of Plainfield, Wisconsin, who lives in a big inherited farmhouse he keeps like a pig sty where rats and squirrels roam free inside, and dines mostly on canned pork and beans. The locals accept him as their own weirdo because they think he’s harmless, with a droll backwater sense of humor. He spends his days thinking about his Bible-spouting late mom and how much he still misses her. The obsessive momma’s boy remembers how she called women whores who wore makeup and through visions and voices, he believes she’s telling him to kill such harlots. It leads him to kill Mary Hogan (Sally Champlin), a smut-talking bar owner and then skins her and dresses in her body parts. Next we witness how his mom orders him not to be such a pantywaist and kill Collette Marshall (Carol Mansell), the grandma he wanted to date who runs the local hardware store but who mom calls a temptress. This murder and mutilation leads to his arrest.
This guy is about as weird a dude as there ever was, who disinters women to hold strange rituals with their corpses, eat them and in one case wears their skins as a suit while dancing around on his grounds at night like a wild tribal native and beating on a pot. When arrested cops discover in his house an abattoir, an ossuary, furniture made from human remains and a decrepit farmhouse fit for a madman.
REVIEWED ON 2/14/2007 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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