I watched Ed Gein (aka In the Light of the Moon) last night. I have long known about this man but, I wanted to see what kind of movie someone would make about him, other than the usual scares (i.e. Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Silence of the Lambs, etc.).
This is the man that is supposed to be the factual basis for a number of our Horror Villain favorites like Hannibal Lector, Buffalo Bill, Leatherface and Norman Bates. Each of these characters took pieces of Gein and amplified them, making them a unique kind of villain in horror films.
When I decided to watch this movie, I expected something similar to Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003 version), something with a copious amount of blood and gore, lots of screaming and many, many deaths.
However, what I got was much more…insightful. Disturbing, nonetheless, but still, insightful.
Director Chuck Parello seemed to have a deeper vision of what kind of killer he wanted to portray. Actor Steve Railsback, who plays Gein, took us on a journey into the personal life and torments of Eddie Gein, as he is so fondly called in this movie by the townspeople.
Here we have a man, lost and lonely after the death of his beloved mother. A man who, despite true effort, just can’t seem to assimilate into the all-encompassing norms of society. This is a man who nobody really pays much attention to, nobody thinks he’s a threat or a burden. He’s quiet and shy. He keeps to himself out on the family farm. He’s not an imposing figure by any means. He’s polite when he speaks and tries his best to get along with everyone.
Yet, there is a painful awkwardness to dear, sweet Eddie. One that often goes ignored.
We find out that little Eddie was never good enough in his mother’s eyes. She was a witch of a woman, yelling and screaming at him all the time, beating him with a belt. She was a profoundly religious woman, preaching and reading from her bible every day. Her husband was also an abusive man and neither were very nice to Gein as a child.
After the deaths of his “father” and brother (we see Ed and his brother have a fight, and Ed kills his brother Henry, Ed’s life became his mother. He constantly cared for and doted on her all the way up to her death. And that was the event that truly sent him over the edge.
Living by himself he interacts very little with others. There’s a couple of boys, brothers, that he babysits. One day the youngest goes snooping around Ed’s house and finds three decomposing heads hanging on the back of Gein’s bedroom door. The youngster also finds facial skins hanging on the walls and a lamp made out of a spine. Ed catches the boy when these sights scare him and he screams. The boys are definitely shocked and tell Eddie that it seems pretty weird and that maybe their father was right and Ed shouldn’t watch them anymore. Gein obviously feels a number of emotions here and through what seems to be hurt and embarrassment, he tells the two young kids not to come back anymore.
This is a moment where we see the childlike sensitivity and fragile nature of his already damaged and demoralized self-esteem. He repeatedly acts like a confused and shy kid mixed in with a grown man and all that entails.
Ed, not being able to stand the loss of his mother and his profound loneliness, takes to digging up fresh graves at the cemetery and trying to resurrect them. (I assume to practice to resurrect Mother OR to just plumb replace Mother.)
Ed starts to have hallucinations and delusions of his mother. She tells him to kill women. Her view is similar to those that think all wrong in the world was caused by Eve eating the apple from the forbidden tree. His mother thinks women are evil, temptresses that must be struck down.
That being said, there’s a bar Ed frequents that has a female bartender, her name is Mary. She’s got a mouth like a sailor and flirts like a prostitute, everything Mother can’t stand.
One night at closing time, Ed shoots her. She doesn’t die right away and he hauls her off to his house, “to take care of her”. She dies in his home, tied to a bed.
This is the part that is the most representative of the “Leatherface” type character traits. His psychosis increasing, he begins to play with the body parts, making masks and suits to wear to change his appearance.
Then, he shoots and kidnaps Collette, a gal that works at a local store in town. She also doesn’t die immediately from her gunshot wound and he takes her back to his house where she ultimately succumbs as well.
With both of these women, Gein tries to resurrect them but, is unsuccessful.
A concerned employee, Brian, goes to Gein’s house looking for her, feeling something is wrong after seeing blood in the store and knowing the way Ed has always looked at her.
He gets to Gein’s house and is horrified and sickened by what he finds. He runs and calls the police.
Upon arrival and inspection of the house, the police (who never thought Eddie could have been capable of anything like this) found an array of jars, a human heart in a skillet with blood on the stove, bowls made out of skulls that had been eaten out of, a decomposing head under a mattress, a head in a toolbox, fingers preserved in a jar (they have red nail polish on them still), furniture made out of and decorated with human bones and finally, Mary’s facial skin on the floor in a dirty cloth.
Ed Gein is arrested and, having been diagnosed a schizophrenic, deemed unfit for trial and remanded to a psychiatric hospital. He was buried beside his mother in 1984 when he died of respiratory failure.
There were many times in this movie that it was clear that the director wanted the viewers to see Gein not only as a disturbed individual but, also as a troubled human being. However, in a truly classic fashion, every time I found myself looking at Gein, about to think he’s normal and harmless enough, that’s when they remind you, he’s not normal.
While this wasn’t so much an actual slasher type horror movie, in my opinion, it’s still interesting enough to watch at least once. It focuses more on who Gein is instead of what he does.