Anyone checking into “Bates Motel” expecting the bloodshed of “American Horror Story” or “Game of Thrones” may want to change their reservation. This prequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller “Psycho” is less interested in grossing you out than creeping you out.
Oscar nominee Vera Farmiga, who tossed aside George Clooney in “Up in the Air,” is much clingier in her role of Norma Bates, except this time the apple of her eye is her 17-year-old son Norman (Freddie Highmore), destined to grow up to offer motel guests the world’s worst showers.
Anyone threatening that unnatural mother-and-child bond is in dire straits, including a hot-headed half-brother, a suspicious sheriff and a gaggle of high school girls who think young Norm is simply dreamy.
The executive producers include Carlton Cuse, who proved through his work on “Lost” that he’s capable of leading viewers down some wonderfully peculiar paths. In the first three episodes, however, the only true shocker is a scene in which a schoolteacher flirts with Norm.
Those looking for a fright night might prefer simply rewatching Hitchcock’s 1960 original — or wait for a more promising dream prequel: “The Birds: Hatching of the Eggs.” □