By Rev. Todd R. Lattig
Read Romans 3:1-20
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” (Romans 12:21)
One of my all-time favorite horror films is John Carpenter’s Halloween, which was inspired by another one of my favorite horror films, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. The two films have been monumentally impactful in the horror genre. What’s more, the two films are connected to each other because the two lead actresses are literally related to each other. That’s right, Janet Leigh, who starred in Psycho, is Halloween star, Jamie Lee Curtis’ mother. In fact, in 1998 for the 20th anniversary of Halloween, both Jamie Lee and Janet Leigh starred together in Halloween: H20.
Trivia aside, there’s a lot we can learn from Halloween; however, before we do, we need to look at it’s predecessor, Psycho. In that film, Anthony Perkins plays a seemingly kind but socially awkward motel owner who incidentally meets Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) as she stops for the night due to the rain being so bad. Seeing that the Bates Motel had vacancy, she pulls in and meets Norman (Anthony Perkins) who checks her in and offers her food.
What Norman doesn’t know is that Marion had stolen $40,000 from her employer’s client and was on the run. Her boyfriend didn’t know she was going to pull this off, nor did her sister. So, no one knows that Marion is at the Bates Motel, let alone where she might be. What Marion doesn’t know is that there’s more than meets the eye at the Bates motel and, as a matter of fact, we find out that not only is Norman a perverted peeping Tom, but his “mother” is super jealous of other women.
That last fact, sadly, cost Marion her life. While taking a shower, Norman’s “mother” came into the bathroom slowly and silently, ripped open the curtin and stabbed Marion to death with a large kitchen knife. The scene was more than memorable, it literally scarred some people enough that they refused to take a shower again. Of course, Hitchcock being the brilliant director he was, the scene was pulled off without ever showing the knife connect with the body and, in pure Hitchcock fashion, the blood shown going down the drain was actually Bosco Chocolate Syrup because Hitchcock discovered that it looked more red in the Black & White format. Even shooting in B&W was purposeful, as Technicolor was widely available at the time and Hitchcock chose not to shoot it that way.
Of course, I put the word “mother” in quotes because we learn that Norman’s mother is really dead. Norman was into taxidermy and, after poisoning her, he preserved her well and kept her in the basement. To compensate for the loss of his overbearing mother, Norman dressed up like her, imitated her voice and assumed her identity.
As it turned out, Norman was a very sick man who had Dissociative Identity (formerly known as Multiple Personality) Disorder. He was Norman some of the time, he was Mrs. Bates the rest of the time. As Norman, he was a frail, lonely, insecure, awkward boy in a man’s body. As Mrs. Bates, he was cold, demanding, cruel and, as we find out in the film, jealously murderous.
The beauty of this film is how forward thinking it was in terms of mental health. It’s shocking conclusion, with Norman completely gone and Mrs. Bates being completely the dominant personality, really forces the viewer to come face-to-face with mental illness. One cannot hate Norman at the end of the film. Sure, he horrifies you, but there is a level of pity you have for him. His victims should not have died, not even his cruel mom, but he is a victim in all of this too and he cannot help himself.
In our society, we often look at killers such as Norman Bates as being the “Face of Evil”, but Psycho challenges this. Was Norman evil? I mean, yes…what he did was evil, but was Norman Bates, the man, evil? Or was he a sick individual who slipped through the cracks only to turn up when it was brutally too late? Psycho was a very 1960s way of looking at what we call “evil” and trying to put the humanity back into it.
Overall, that is a great thing because, as easy as it would be to view Norman Bates as less than human or a monster, he really is not much different than you and I. The only difference is how his mind works and, truthfully, all of our minds work a bit differently. Norman Bates was a man who was created and loved by God. No, God did not wish for Norman’s life to go down the path it did; however, since when did that give us the permission to BE GOD and judge?
In fact, one of the many faces of evil is JUDGMENT. People who think they are God enough to pass judgment are putting on evil as their way of life. That does not make THEM evil, but their judgmental attitudes are evil for sure. So, before we start getting all self-righteous, we really do need to take a back seat to God. Let us remember that, no matter how awful a person may be acting, they are still a child of God and we are called to love everyone…not judge them.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Evil is as evil does.
Lord, lead me away from temptation and deliver me from evil. Amen.