Last year, between the two of us, we watched an average of 317 movies.
This year our goal is to top that by watching at least one a day.
And as an extra special torture, we've decided to write about all of them.

19 March 2008

Ed Gein: The Butcher of Plainfield, dir. Michael Feifer (2007)

NIKKI says:
It's difficult to know where to begin. I think I'm most appalled that this film calls itself Ed Gein, opens with shots of the real Ed Gein and his home, takes itself extremely seriously, and yet it features very few facts.

The filmmakers here ignored documented history, and have taken it upon themselves to alter Gein's story to create a gross-out horror film. Somehow the already gruesome facts of the case weren't enough for writer/director Michael Feifer. Why, Feifer asks, hang a corpse from a butcher's hook when you can spice things up and hang a girl while still alive?

And even better, let's remove Gein's penchant for stout mother-figures and have him wiping off mostly hot babes in white cotton panties.

I cannot understand for the life of me what Feifer hoped for with this film. Then again, when you look at his priors, it's not so surprising that this was shit: The Graveyard, The Seductress, Witchcraft IX: Bitter Flesh and about a hundred other classics. Lord. He's obviously not serious. He's a dude with money and a typewriter. That's about all I can ascertain. Still, I don't know why he hasn't been stopped. I'm offended by his rewriting of criminal history, but maybe other people realise what a stupid hack he is and simply ignore him?

Soon, we'll be treated to his Boston Strangler: The Untold Story. I'm guessing that's a film featuring Albert DeSalvo with Feifer just making up stuff to fill out the running time. And get this -- it's going to star David Faustino as DeSalvo. Normally, I wouldn't outright bag Bud Bundy, but BUD BUNDY? As DeSalvo? Why do I get the feeling Feifer's taken his money to LA's underground clubs and enticed has-beens with promises of paychecks and renewed fame.

A bit like Jeffrey Dahmer luring men back to his flat to take "modelling shots", perhaps? "Come on, Bud Bundy, wanna make a movie? I'll pay you. And you can being a friend. What about Corky Nemec over there? He looks lonely. And cheap."

Oh god.

Ed Gein was stupid and pointless and disgusting. I think Feifer needs help -- anyone else get the feeling he's living vicariously through America's famous killers in a creepy, "this is how I would have done it"-type way?


STEVE says:
Michael Feifer has somehow managed, with the direct-to-video abortion that is Ed Gein: The Butcher of Plainfield, to slander the name of a grave-robber and murderer, best known for his creative cannibalization of corpses. How do you pull that off? And more importantly, why bother?

It's not like Gein's story isn't compelling enough. He has inspired some of the most famous movie madmen of our day in several heavily fictionalized accounts, and their endless sequels and remakes - 12 titles, off the top of my head. And his "true" story has been filmed more than once. Deranged from 1974 tells the story of Ezra Cobb (Roberts Blossom) and his Oedipus-fueled shenanigans. While the names have been changed, this was the most accurate portrayal of Gein and his story until Chuck Parello's Ed Gein in 2000. While not a great film, Ed Gein (also known as In the Light of the Moon) takes an unflinching look at Gein's exploits, while sticking fairly close to the facts, and Steve Railsback simply channels Gein, down to the little smirk constantly playing about his lips, making you think that there’s always something just slightly amusing going on in there… something maybe having to do with meat-hooks.

Feifer decided to take the Homer Simpson approach to the facts in this instance ("Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true."), and pulling something of a Lawnmower Man on us. Yes, there's a guy named Ed Gein in the movie; yes, he kills a tavern owner and a shopkeeper; and, yes, he wears women's skin. Other than that, Ed Gein: The Butcher of Plainfield tells the story of Ed Gein the way Sleepway Camp tells the story of Christine Jorgenson: Not At All.

Ed Gein was convicted of killing two women, but suspected of killing at least six. Butcher decides to take that number and run with it, throwing accuracy to the wind, and having Gein kill - in the first half hour - a high school girl, his friend Jack, and a caretaker at the cemetery. By the time the movie gets around to the Mary Hogan character, it feels like she's been shoehorned in from another story. Which, in a very real sense, she has.

It continues in this vein, dwelling on speculation rather than known facts, and twisting known facts to fit what can loosely be called a story. The Bernice Worden character - here called Vera Mason, played by Priscilla Barnes - is the mother of the films protagonist, Deputy Bobby Mason. No link to reality there, but it's the story's one interesting facet - the cop is as reliant on his mother as Gein was on his own - so I can't necessarily fault it there. But Mrs. Worden was found in Gein's barn "dressed out" like a deer. In Butcher, Mrs. Mason is found in the barn, lying fully clothed on a work table, and the high school girl is the one hanging from the hooks. Am I nit-picking? Maybe. But I'm thinking, "Why?" Did it help the story to not butcher Mrs. Mason? No. So why change it?

And then there's this Jack fella. He may be based on "Gus", who sometimes pops up in Gein mythology. However, research of the facts tend to show that Gus did not exist, which makes sense: when your house is decked out in human remains, you don't want company dropping by. Feifer says "NUTS" to logic and research, and gives us Jack. The only reason I can see for this character's existence is to give Michael Berryman something to do. Jack's there for about three minutes before he and Gein have a fight and Gein beats him to death with a shovel, showcasing Feifer's incompetence as a screenwriter, as the scene does NOTHING to advance the movie or develop the story. It served as a quick paycheck for Berryman, who, frankly, deserves better.

I will have to give props to Kane Hodder as an actor. As bad a match as he is to Gein, he did manage to portray him with a sense of sadness and pain, instead of as a relentless, drooling maniac. It also has to be said that he acted the pants off of everyone else involved here - which is not exactly a high bar. I'm just saying, for a glorified stunt man, he's not a bad actor.

The worst thing about Butcher - apart from its blatant disregard for facts, intro-to-film screenwriting and inspired miscasting of Kane Hodder - is that there are people out there who are going to watch it and take it as gospel. And that's just sad. Eddie Gein dressed in the skins of dead women and danced around in the moonlight; clearly he was a very, very sick man. His story, as horrific as it is, is also a tragic one. But even if history finds no sympathy for Eddie, himself, surely Mary Hogan and Bernice Worden deserve better than this.


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