Monday, January 19, 2015

Biography - Ed Gein (2004) Review:

Horror icons are not always made up in the fabrication of the mind. Clive Barker, a literary horror novelist who created the memorable cenobites to his film Hellraiser (1987) was unique and was a fabrication by him alone. However, Freddy Krueger from Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) was not. Craven conjured up the idea after he did some research on people in Asia who died in their sleep for mysterious reasons. Krueger was only created to create a reason for it. But did anyone ever think that Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) or Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) production was based off of a single man that actually live in the North America? Most likely not. Unless research was done on it prior, very few people actually suspect that these couple of films were (loosely) based on events that actually happened. It's these kinds of stories that make the movies sound less scary and the real ones more frightening.

Ed Gein
The story itself is about a quiet town in Wisconsin called Plainfield. There in 1957 a series of shocking discoveries were made by the head of the police department. These sightings were found in the house of man named Ed Gein, a what looked to be a simple and mellow town man. But this is only what seemed to be what was portrayed on the outside, for what lied beneath his exterior was something inhuman that can't be explained clearly by any analyst. As a for a short TV documentary, this roughly hour long video is fairly effective in its job at making viewers’ skin crawl. The biggest component to that feeling is that the story is true. That alone is bone-chilling enough but here's where the rest of the production really hits the nail on the head.

Alex Flaster's writing shows he did his research. The story covers from exactly when the unbelievable encounters were made, up to the end of Ed Gein. There is some back-story that sheds light on Gein but much of it is too muddled for anyone to truly know if it was true. The interesting thing is once it's been seen and understood, viewers will understand the correlation to how Psycho (1960) and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) relate specifically to this estranged man. The narrator David O'Brien, who doesn't have much for a filmography certainly gave it his best shot when it came to creeping out his audience. O'Brien's voice is oily slick and gives the story telling a much uneasier feel.

Another element to this documentary that pushes the uncomfortability level was the music provided by Jim Gaynor. Gaynor's music consists of electronic piano and other synth instruments but it is worked in a fashion that does create a sense of frantic nervousness to the tale being told. I must say though, it does sound like a score than composer Richard Band would create because it sounds awfully cheap. Yet, Gaynor's score is much more compelling than Bands. The other aspect to the story that takes the cake is interviews/Q&A's held with various individuals who worked on the Gein case. Whether it be a News Reporter, homeowner from Plainfield or someone who personally looked after Gein, the fact that they were there and took part in what was considered one of the most alarming stories of the mid 1900s is just mind blowing. It seriously must have been a scary thing to learn when everything was all revealed as time went on.

The names there,....he's a reporter (obviously)
Unfortunately, even with how effective a lot of these supporting sections give to the documentary, there are still two big flaws; both of which try to work off each other. This flaw is when the story is being told, it is done so as a recreation - as if the viewer is watching it as it was being filmed the day of. For 1957, it's obvious that no one would even have a hand held recorder, so why try to convince its audience now? But because they did this, the other error they commit is trying to make the still photographs (which are real) look 3D. There's absolutely no need for that. If the material is graphic, let it be graphic. War is graphic and you don't see documentaries on those being vaguely lit. It's also not like these pictures aren't visible but it would be nice to see just how much of twisted man Ed Gein really was and that means seeing the whole thing from top to bottom. Yet, even with these minor things, it is still a moving documentary.

As a short TV documentary its writer certainly packed in enough information to help its audience comprehend just how weird this man is. The visual elements are a bit flawed but the music, narration and interviews help elevate its story telling experience to one ghastly night.

Points Earned --> 7:10

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