The events of 1987’s Bates Motel take place 27 years after schizophrenic serial killer Norman Bates is arrested and found guilty by reason of insanity for his crimes. While in the institution, Norman is introduced to a troubled young boy named Alex West (Bud Cort), who murdered his abusive stepfather in a giant tumble dryer and ends up staying in the same institution. Norman takes the lad under his wing until his death 27 years later, coincidentally the same year that Alex is finally allowed out of the institution. According to Norman’s will (how he is deemed of ‘sound mind’ to do so is subject to debate), Alex inherits the Bates Motel and his family home that overlooks it. Alex soon takes over the motel and aims to renovate it back to its former glory. However, he finds the Bates house already illegally inhabited by a spunky runaway girl named Willie (Lori Petty), who worms her way into staying and helping Alex realize his dream of making a go of the motel business. However, not everyone wants the business to succeed, as Alex begins to see the ghost of Mrs. Bates around the place, and calamities begin to happen that threaten the establishment’s livelihood before it can even begin. In what is obviously the first taste of what the “Bates Motel” series would be like, the final third of the film takes a detour as we’re introduced to Alex’s first guest to stay in the motel, an aerobics instructor named Barbara Peters (Kerrie Keane), who claims to be wanting peace and quiet to get some writing done, but in actuality, she aims to slash her wrists in the tub ). At this point, she is visited by a young woman (Khrystyne Haje) who stops her and takes her to a 1950s-themed party happening at the motel (I think), where she is pursued by Tony (Jason Bateman), a young cruiser there, and the two have strong feelings for one another, despite her protestations about their age difference. But there is much more to the events that transpire that night than meets the eye. Richard Rothstein directs this made-for-TV pilot to a series based on Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho that never followed.
Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) finally gets his release from a California mental institution after he is found guilty by reason of insanity for the heinous murders he committed over 22 years prior. Lila Loomis (Vera Miles), sister of one of Bates’ victims, has her pleas for a non-release fall on deaf ears. Having been declared of ‘sound mind’ again, Norman returns to his gothic childhood home and Bates Motel near Fairvale, CA, and takes up a job while on parole at a diner nearby. Norman becomes fast friends with a waitress there named Mary Samuels (Meg Tilly), and he ends up offering her a room for a while after her boyfriend tosses her out for someone new. However, as much as Norman tries to put the past behind him, he is beginning to get that old feeling again, as he begins receiving handwritten notes and phone calls from his mother, as well as her appearance in the house at various times, and people begin to start dying once again.