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4.6 out of 5 stars
Bates Motel: Season 1 (DVD + UltraViolet)
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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on September 23, 2013
Format: Blu-rayVerified Purchase
I'm kind of curious about some of the one star reviews here that rate it low based on the "violence and murder." What did these reviewers expect from show based on "Psycho?" A sweet tale about a boy and his mom? I mwan come on! These people should have known what they were getting themselves into right from the beginning. It's based on the most classic of classic horror films!

Anyway.

I'll admit, I was wary of this one when I saw the very first promo for it online. You don't mess with classics, and by all accounts, Hitchcock's "Psycho" is about as classic as it gets. Even more concerning was the apparent modernization of the tale. But the more I saw, the more intrigued I became. There was something about that creepy little smile of Freddie Highmore's that made me deeply curious.

I have to say, the first episode hooked me. Highmore plays young Norman Bates and his quirks with a creepy subtlety that pays homage Anthony Perkins performance in the original. He's humble, naïve, polite and mild mannered yet you can see that budding psychotic fighting to come through pretty early on. It's in no way overdone, and Norman is completely unaware of this other self. Yet you can sympathize with the kid. He's socially awkward and sometimes blunt and inappropriate, but even then, you can't hate him. Maybe it's knowing what he becomes that makes it sympathetic, knowing that this smart (mostly) nice kid has such a fate in store for him. Maybe it's just Highmore's portrayal of him, or a little of both. Either way, his journey into psychosis is a nuanced slow burn rather than an outright explosion. You can see it building slowly alongside the building tension from episode to episode, a little at a time.

Special mention goes to Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates, who is just phenomenal in this role. At times, her reactions are those of a normal but overwhelmed single mom. Other times, she goes completely off the deep end. Sometimes, she's strong and in control, sometimes she cracks and becomes completely helpless. One minute, she's nurturing, loving and every bit the `good' mother. The next, she's selfish, childish and manipulative. The thing is you're never sure which Norma it will be. You also can't be sure if she's telling the truth. Sometimes she delivers lies with convincing ease and other times is the worst liar in the world, telegraphing her guilt like a neon sign.

On the surface her relationship with Norman seems based on a genuinely close bond between mother and son, but it quickly becomes apparent that it's an unhealthy and sometimes uncomfortable one. Norma wants Norman to be her friend so badly, she smothers him and becomes jealous of time spent with anyone other than her. Any time Norman makes a bid for freedom, she lays the guilt on like an over dramatic 13 year old girl with a case of the "don't mind me, I'll just lay here and die," blues. Norma seems incapable of making the right decision and winds up digging a hole so deep she would be better off burying herself in it. Of course, she can't take ownership for any of these decisions and lays the blame anywhere she can, including on Norman.

On some level, Norma knows that there's something wrong with Norman. She knows that sometimes he's not himself, but she will do ANYTHING to protect him. And I mean anything. I won't give too much away here, but this is a woman who is quick to judge others but is often guilty of the things she accuses them of. But she's not entirely unsympathetic. It's pretty clear she's unbalanced, had a troubled childhood, has recently lost her husband (who may have been abusive) and is trying hard to start over. Not to mention, the events of the first episode are, in short, horrific. But, just when you start to feel bad for her, she does something creepy, inappropriate or just plain stupid and you hate her again.

Then, there's the addition of an older brother named Dylan. He seems to be the only person in the family who isn't suffering from mental illness. True, it doesn't seems like he can keep a job and he has a chip on his shoulder, but in all respects, there's nothing really worrisome about him. That is, other than his new job and a bad choice midseason that he shows no remorse for and apparently there are no consequences for. He's definitely not innocent. Still, he's only one who seems to acknowledge (at least to himself) there's something wrong with Norman. He's openly critical of the unnatural closeness between mom and brother, and at first it seems like jealousy. But then it becomes apparent that it's out of genuine concern for his little brother.

Personally, Dylan's a bit bland for me. It's not that the acting, writing or story line is bland, it's just that it almost seems like he was created to move some sub plots along and to enrich the family dynamic. The jury's still out because he has potential if they can figure out where they're going with him. There are shades of corruption in him, but also shades of morality.

The true moral compass in this story comes in the form of Emma, a girl with cystic fibrosis and Norman's only friend. Emma may be the only innocent one in this series, as it seems the rest of the town is just as shady, twisted and crazy as the Bates family. She genuinely likes him and sometimes overlooks his bluntness and occasional outburst because her innocence prevents it, and perhaps because she has feelings for him. She's honest and kind and outspoken about injustice. Unfortunately, her actions may directly impact Norman and his slow descent into psychosis.

Emma's the only character I truly fear for in this entire series. As corrupt as everyone else is, if they get their due, it's probably fitting. Those that have perished so far `had it coming.' And we know the fate of Norma and Norman Bates, don't we? I hope that Emma's innocence will be what saves her, but I fear that maybe it won't. We shall see, no?

(Spoilers Ahead!)
There are some fun references in this that relate back to "Psycho," and one or two other Hitchcock "easter eggs," such as a reference to "The Birds." We also learn where Norman learned about Taxidermy. Then, there's the scene where Norman speaks using his mother's voice. Holy Bejebus. I got chills. He replicates word for word something his mother said earlier in the evening about a girl he likes. The delivery and tone were spot on and absolutely chilling.

Some people have criticized the sex slave story line, but I kind of get it. In the beginning of this story line, the images in the book Norman finds clearly have a huge impact on him. There's an emphasis on the drawings of the shower to tip you off. Not to mention, this story line drives a lot of the events that happen in the series. I can't wait for season 2 to find out how much crazy is still in store for us. And I really hope that "Bates Motel" doesn't go the way of so many really great shows that had great first seasons and fell apart in the second (Heroes comes to mind).

Fans of the original movie may hate this for various reasons, but speaking as a fan of "Psycho" (since childhood, as a matter of fact - I bad parents who let me watch whatever I wanted) I love it. Sure, it's not 100% canon compliant, but I expected that. So long as you don't go into it with a purist attitude, I don't think you'll be disappointed.
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57 of 65 people found the following review helpful
Format: Amazon Instant VideoVerified Purchase
Well after actually watching the first 3 episodes I can safely say that this is a truly creepy show :) The story seems good, the actors are almost perfect for their parts and Norman is slowly becoming the guy we all know and love (creepy!).

I think this show is going to make it if the writers don't get cold feet and start making it politically correct and less violent since this is about a person who will become a murdering psycho (ignoring the fact it is set in the present day rather than in the past) so we EXPECT him to do evil things sooner or later and his Mom's level of affection is plain uncomfortable (I did not want to overuse the word creepy again but she makes my skin crawl a bit)

This is MUCh more than a story about Norman getting older and stabbing a girl in the shower, this is a whole new series based on the premise of the motion picture but since it is set in the present day obviously it is not the same story exactly :) This is good storytelling.

Enjoy the newest reimagining of a great story.

UPDATE: Well just to repeat what another reviewer has said, this show really DOES get better with each episode, the first couple of episodes I thought were pretty good but by the end of episode 4 I was addicted and they keep getting better.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Format: Amazon Instant VideoVerified Purchase
I was born after Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" hit the theaters, so I missed all the hype and promotional gimmicks, such as "No one will be admitted to the theater after the film has begun" and "Don't give away the ending" and the dramatic and traumatic trailers. When I saw the film for the first time, I had no idea that Janet Leigh was a huge star and how it was a Hollywood no-no to kill off the major star during the first reel. However, I did know the big revelation at the end before I saw the picture.

Still, the movie was spell-binding. The photography, the movement of the camera, the lighting, and especially the use of shadows gave the film a very creepy atmosphere of inescapable isolation. Combining that with subtle sound effects and a hair-raising score, the film became the perfect setting in which to tell a bone-chilling story using interesting characters. All that was needed was a great script and great actors to play the characters.

Based on the novel by Robert Bloch who was inspired by Wisconsin murderer Ed Gain, the screenplay's adaptation went to Joseph Stefano, who later helped develop the "Outer Limits" series. Stefano fleshed out the characters as best he could given the rather limiting format of a script. Hitchcock, who directed the film, added even more dimension to each character by envisioning every nuance and manner each would possess.

Hitchcock's casting was brilliant. He was very exacting and gave actors very little elbow room when it came to straying from his very precise direction. But his actors were strong enough and talented enough to allow their characters to come across as "real people," rather than as robots programmed to speak and move according to Hitchcock's instructions. This resulted in performances that were both ordinary, yet bigger than life. Every character had his or her own distinct personality that leaped off the screen and we couldn't help but to connect with them.

The set and the mood of the original "Psycho" are characters in and of themselves. The makers of "Bates Motel" have managed to recreate the same discomfiting, just-beneath-the surface eeriness of Hitchcock's classic. Hitchcock's original blueprints were used to build the exterior and interior sets for the series, so the Bates house and motel are exact replicas of the original. The Bates' property is the binding tie that holds the entire cinematic experience together.

We quickly learn, however, that the sense of foreboding we feel while at the Bates house and hotel actually pervades the entire town, both in its locales and in its residents. Everybody and everything is a little "off" somehow. Nothing is as it seems. You get the sense that whatever appears normal will suddenly reveal itself as perverse or corrupt.

The same can be said about young Norman's relationship with his mother, Norma. It is at once a perfectly normal relationship between mother and son, but we sense, simmering just beneath the surface, it is a relationship fraught with inappropriate and perverse feelings. Norma, who refers to Norman as the only real friend she has, seems oblivious of the effect that her doting and protective mothering is having on Norman. Norman appears to have a type of dissociative identity disorder and enters moments of fugue when he becomes upset. Norma, who is aware of Norman's strange affliction, but doesn't quite comprehend it, tries her best, as a mother would, to be gentle, supportive and understanding when Norman has these episodes. He is also fiercely protective over his mother essentially because of her kindness toward him.

We enter the story of the Bates at this point because Norman is presently at the age when he is beginning to like girls. He is at the age of sexual awakening. He becomes sexually aroused easily and, in several instances, when it wouldn't be viewed as appropriate. As a result, Norman becomes deeply conflicted, guilt-ridden and confused by his burgeoning sexuality.

The core of the series is the fascinating, yet disturbing, growth of the relationship between Norman and his mother. Most people who are familiar with the movie "Psycho" knows how the relationship between "Mother" and son is resolved in the end. In the meantime, taking place around the heart of the story are the extraordinary and shocking events that happen in the motel, in the city and at Norman's school.

The cast is first-rate. The beautiful and talented Vera Farmiga plays "Norma" and her performance deserves an Emmy. The young man who plays "Norman" is fascinating in the part because he is able to express such a range of seemingly disconnected emotions, transitioning smoothly from affable, to neurotic, to downright terrifying.

The rest of the cast of characters is rounded out by The Sheriff who is stoic on the outside, but whose mind is racing at a mad speed; Norman's half-brother, who appears to be the only sane character among the lot, is terrific; Norman's best friend and fellow school mate is a wonderful and attractive actress; and, finally, there is the actress who plays the girl of Norman's dreams, another lovely and attractive young actress.

Each of the 10 episodes in Season 1 are shot in 16:9 HD color and are approximately 45 minutes in length.
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19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 2013
Bates motel is promising I like it, it has a lot of suspense, I am already hook to it. The show focuses on the relationship between Norman Bates and his living mother, Norma. Norman is played by Freddie Highmore who starred in the 2005 movie "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," and Norma is played by Vera Farmiga,'Bates Motel,examines Norman Bates' upbringing and the events that will ultimately mold him into a cross-dressing murderer with dual personalities."
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 21, 2014
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
By now there are 299 5-star reviews for this DVD. Really?

Remarkably, many of the "reviews" are very brief, from people who submitted ten 5-star reviews to Amazon -- all on the same day. An indication that these are paid reviews. (You can find ads on Craigslist offering money for 5-star Amazon and Yelp reviews.)

Now, this is not a bad show, but neither is it remarkable. Some observations...

* The acting is excellent. A great cast of highly-talented actors makes this show watchable despite its faults, which are mainly in the story.

* The Norman Bates mythos has been updated to modern times. (The teenage Norman texts his friends.) This updating is a poor choice. Sherlock Holmes belongs in Victorian England. James Bond belongs to the Cold War. Norman Bates belongs to a more repressed pre-Sexual Revolution America.

* This show is more TWIN PEAKS than PSYCHO. A small town in the northwest, with lots of quirky characters and dark secrets, sexual and criminal. BATES MOTEL is TWIN PEAKS without the mysticism and sentimentality. That is to say, TWIN PEAKS's darkness was balanced with light, whereas BATES MOTEL's darkness lacks that balance.

Watching BATES MOTEL, I sensed that I was seeing a second-rate TWIN PEAKS knockoff, rather than something fresh and original. The cast, and the soap opera cliffhangers, held my interest. But it didn't feel like PSYCHO to me.

* Which leads to the biggest problem: Anthony Perkin's Norman Bates was a lunatic amid normal folk. But this younger Norman is a lunatic in a whole town full of sexual deviants and criminal psychopaths. (You have killer cops, a town that burns people alive, a pedophile teacher, sex slavers -- and that doesn't include the many lesser crooks.) This setting makes Norman less "special" -- it takes away his bite. If everyone's a psycho, is anyone?
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 14, 2014
Format: DVD
I tuned into this show strictly for something to watch while I was eating my dinner (I know!). I fully expected to turn it off halfway through. Given the source material and the increasing intensity of cable shows, I thought this was going to be a lurid, violent horror series in the vein of "American Horror Story." It is intense, but in a good, old-fashioned way. It's really a thriller and a character study. Norma Bates, played by the excellent Vera Farmiga is not some raving lunatic, but a complex, nuanced woman. Norman is perfectly played by Freddie Highmore, and the entire cast is likable, even when we discover the skeletons in their closets. The fine writing and production values pulled me in. It's one of those shows where you can't wait to see what happens next. I almost wish it hadn't been based on "Psycho" and that we didn't know what became of Norman Bates, because then it would be even better. I only hope the producers maintain this creepy (as opposed to gruesome) atmosphere, without descending into ugliness. Right now, I'm hooked!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on May 17, 2013
The reason Norma scares me so, is that you never know which persona will appear from moment to moment. It's as if someone were to hand you a ticking time bomb- you have no clue when the explosion might occur. And that's downright scary.
And so it is with Norma Bates, who at one moment is sweet and charming, then suddenly, without warning, ignites into this horrid monster willing to destroy anyone or anything in her path.
Her outward beauty belies what is ticking inside that scheming, conniving mind. ( a great Juxtaposition).

After watching every episode thus far ( there's one more left- which I'll bet is a doozy ) I have come to appreciate the myriad talents of Vera Farmiga more and more. I will go on record right now- as of this writing ( May 17th, 2013 ) to say that she will be nominated for an Emmy. If she isn't- then the earth doesn't revolve around the sun, cats don't purr, and the moon is really made out of Gouda.

I've followed her movie career, and had always been impressed by her talent, but her performance in Bates Motel just leaves me slack-jawed, stunned, and craving for more. I just can't picture anyone else playing Norma Bates!

The plot lines are truly imaginative and quirky, just the way a treatment of " Bates Motel " should be. It doesn't follow predictable paths, and keeps the audience guessing what's to come. ( Just as old Alfred did in the original " Psycho. "

The entire cast's acting is superb, and the hotel and house are creepier than a toothless old man in a trench-coat selling candy to kids.

5 stars.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon May 21, 2013
"Bates Motel" is fantastic. The premise of the show is that it follows the story of Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) starting with his pre-"Psycho" years as a teenager. He and his mother, Norma (Vera Farmiga), relocate to the West Coast and purchase the motel. Over the course of the first season, a lot of stuff goes down in this town, many of it involving shady characters who have a previous connection to the hotel. Additionally, Norma comes to blows with her older son, Dylan (Max Thieriot), and Norman struggles to fit in with his peers despite the fact that he really doesn't fit in at all.

I don't want to give away too much more of the plot, because it's so enjoyable to watch and let it evolve in front of you. Yes, you need to allow for a bit of suspension of disbelief, and yes, this town is way too crazy to be plausible, but the rest of the show is so good that you will be willing to overlook the unrealistic aspects of things and just sit back and enjoy. Also, the acting is amazing...Farmira deserves an Emmy for her incredible performance. Highmore deserves a nomination, too. I can't wait to see what "Bates Motel" has in store for us next season.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2014
Format: Amazon Instant VideoVerified Purchase
LOVE This show. cant get enough & cant wait for season 2. these shows were in great quality and were super easy to navigate through
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 1, 2013
Format: Amazon Instant VideoVerified Purchase
Bates Motel looked promising from the beginning. After all, who wouldn't love a rehash of such a classic serial killer? The idea of being able to psychoanalyze a young Norman Bates is absolutely tantalizing. And this pilot episode proved to be a fantastic start to such an opportunity. Especially interesting to me, and I'm sure many others, is trying to understand and interpret the motivations of people. Norman is a guy brought up in just the right--wrong--circumstances to cultivate a deranged yet loving person. This first episode of the series provides the crucial background information on Norman to understand him and his sadistic desires.
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