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Ed Gein: The Butcher of Plainfield
Directed by Michael Feifer
Written by Michael Feifer
Starring Kane Hodder, Adrienne Frantz, Michael Barryman, Priscilla Barnes
Produced by Michael Feifer
If you should be wandering your video store aisles, and you see a movie box assert that its contents are, in fact, “too terrifying for theatres,” you can be reasonably certain that they are not.
Like that schmuck at the bar who won’t stop screaming about how great his job is and how cool his car is and how amazing his girlfriend is, he likely has none of the above, and is quite possibly living in his mom’s basement.
This spectacularly roundabout metaphor is actually a solid descriptor for “Ed Gein: The Butcher of Plainfield.” Of course, as the box will cite repeatedly, Ed Gein was the philosophical model behind the great cinematic killers—Leatherface, Norman Bates, and Buffalo Bill—but watching Ed go through this movie is like watching bad summer stock theatre with enough gore to offend most of the Church Ladies’ Muffin Auxiliary, this newest serial killer dramatization will fail to impress on nearly every level.
It’s hard to spoiler a movie whose plot is public knowledge dozens of times over before it was even completed—sorta like “Titanic”; the boat sank—so I can comfortably spoiler like no tomorrow. Basically, some guy loses his mom and brother in a very close time span, and this unbalances him to the point where he goes carving up the locals for a whole slew of reasons no one will bother to discuss and spend some time making various handicrafts like leather suits out of their skin.
On the plus side, we’ve got Kane Hodder back. There will be plenty who disagree with me and plenty who agree when I say that Hodder was the best of all the Jason Voorhees actors from the Friday the 13th saga. It’s good to see Kane working again—he’s always had a way of projecting a methodical, relentless menace without saying a word. Thus, it’s a smidge disappointing to find out that he has a speaking role here. But only a smidge disappointing. He’s not half bad. As a further benefit, we get some halfway-decent comic bits out of this, including a positively chuckleworthy sequence where Ed, driving his pickup truck, smiles at the county sheriff’s department deputy whom he has caught enjoying sloppy makeouts with his girlfriend, the sheriff’s daughter. The deputy in question laughs at being caught—what’s Ed gonna do, call the police?—but while sharing the chuckle with his lady friend, he fails utterly to notice the body being dragged behind Ed’s pickup.
See? Funny! In a real gallows humor kind of way.
Sadly, this is about the only joy “Ed Gein: The Butcher of Plainfield” can generate. Much of the rest of the film is so painfully slow that you’ll wonder if you’re actually watching professionals act or a bunch of volunteers dragged in from a dinner theatre. The halfway mark, when a movie should be starting to hit its stride, is comprised of the deputy and his girlfriend…having a picnic. No plot development, nothing. It might as well not even have been there. It was a total yawnfest.
Perhaps worse that all the humor in this movie stems from the fact that these are the most incompetent cops in most of the world. Even Springfield cops would have a hard time matching these morons, and that’s really very sad. It’s a good thing all of Plainfield can’t be worth more than a couple grand or this would be the crime capital of Wisconsin.
Take the ending, for example. While generating the funniest line in the entire movie, it’s also one of the saddest. When the sheriff’s department closes in on Gein, all four cars of it are arrayed outside the house. The sheriff then stands outside his car and announces that “the entire sheriff’s department is out here on official business.” The entire sheriff’s department. All four cars of it. Because if I were a psychopath who killed messily and wore his victims’ faces like leather masks, I’d be just pissing myself at the thought of taking on the ENTIRE SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT. All FOUR of them! Yipes! Ooooh, scary!
Thankfully, there is a bit of suspense in this ending, at least until Feifer’s script calls for everybody on screen to moralize at Gein just as hard as they possibly can, trying to show him “the error of his ways.”
The special features include audio commentary, deleted scenes, still gallery, various audio and display options, Spanish subtitles, English closed captions, and trailers for “Return of the Living Dead 5: Rave to the Grave,” the After Dark Horrorfest, “Silent Scream,” “Open Water 2: Adrift,” “Black Dahlia,” and “Saw III.”
All in all, yet another serial killer biopic from Lions Gate goes off without doing anything special, but at least this time it managed not to spend the whole movie drooling on itself either. A thoroughly bland but marginally acceptible romp, if you’re devoted to seeing real-life killers, then you might at least get a good rental out of “Ed Gein: The Butcher of Plainfield.”
Steve Anderson is a film critic who collects action figures so he can dress them up as his favorite horror villains. He lives somewhere in the United States.
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