It took nearly 50 years, but Ed Gein, Wisconsin's early entry in the serial-killer sweepstakes, finally has his own docudrama. Written by Stephen Johnston and directed by Chuck Parello, Ed Gein is a curious movie about a curious fella. A curious fella because no one presumes to understand exactly why ol' Ed hung that woman by the ankles and gutted her like a deer (among many other things). And a curious movie because the filmmakers haven't come up with any ideas of their own. Sticking pretty closely to the facts, this strangely noncreepy biopic points to Ed's abusive father, his religious nut of a mother (Carrie Snodgress, picking up where she left off in Diary of a Mad Housewife) and the bitter loneliness of life on a remote Wisconsin farm. But we knew all that stuff already. We've all seen Psycho.
Though sturdier than Gein, whose small build was one of the reasons no one suspected him, actor Steve Railsback does a nice job of evoking a man who seemed closer to Elmer Fudd than to Hannibal Lecter. Railsback has Gein's smirk, which belied a profound shyness, and it's almost painful listening to his Ed converse with the good citizens of Plainfield, doling out words like they were kidney stones squeezing through his bladder. Otherwise, the acting's a little cheesy, as in those dramatic reenactments on "Dateline" and "20/20." The filmmakers do make an attempt to leave the facts behind and enter Gein's visions-clogged mind; we see and hear Mother Gein order up the next victims. But why exactly did he listen to her? Alas, that's a question that remains buried in an unmarked grave in Plainfield Cemetery.