Chuck Parello's Ed Gein is one of those films that does what it sets out to accomplish well, but what it doesn't do could have helped phenomenally to kick it beyond being an interesting curiosity. Steve Railsback as the title character isn't to blame at all as the actor is completely invisible behind his seemingly innocuous and mumbling good ol' boy portrayal of the Butcher of Plainfield. It's obvious he invested much time and research getting into the pathetic man's skin. How's that for a pun?
Reading through About.com's Ed Gein profile, it nearly reads as a detailed plot synopsis with only small changes, chiefly where Gein is picked up by police. Though the film only just touches upon important aspects of the twisted man himself. Aside from seeing Eddie frying some meat and sharing "venison" with neighbors, his cannibalism isn't explored any further. There's also no notions of necrophilia despite it gettin' mighty lonely in that big empty farmhouse.
The biggest near-omission is Gein's desire to change his sex (only second to his intense mother love), like his eating habits, it's whittled down to two quick snippets of him almost jokingly posing the question to a couple barflies and dancing in the moonlight adorned in flayed flesh. Most annoyingly, the film doesn't show Gein exhuming the corpse of his supremely religious and domineering mother. So much time is spent focusing on his obsession with her, even going as far as to show her (played by Carrie Snodgrass) as an instructive construct of his dimwitted mind, this reunion would have been extremely interesting to play with considering Railsback bringing his full talent. Then Gein could have sliced off her vulva like he actually did and did to many other female bodies. That's another thing, we never see him cutting up his collection or creating his ghoulish skin-covered furnishings. This is a horror flick after all, right?
The film works best when dabbling in Gein's abstract psyche. One left field tidbit has him reading a book on Nazi war atrocities and then peering over his shoulder to reveal a girl wearing only a Nazi officer's cap and armband lounging in a chair. Now, nekkid fascist girlies aren't always necessarily a bad thing, but wouldn't have it been bolder to show a holocaust victim or officer in full garb staring back...perhaps wearing a flesh mask? There's also a flash of Gein praying to God to rid him of his affliction while burning a newspaper and reburying a body while apologizing for digging it up in the first place during the end credits intercut with Railback portraying an older Gein in a prison interview. If only the rest of the film had the bigger balls exhibited in these juicier bits. Ed Gein is damned by its quaint nature, sorta like Perverted Ernest Goes to Plainfield, but at least we don't have bear killer big Kane Hodder as the lead.