A young female embezzler arrives at the Bates Motel, which has terrible secrets of its own.
Marion Crane steals a lot of cash from a man whom her boss is in business with. On the way to see her boyfriend, she stops off by an old motel, run by the odd Norman Bates. She is murdered in the shower. Her sister, boyfriend, and a private investigator try to find out where she is, while we learn more about Norman Bates.
A remake of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, the film is about Marion Crane, who after stealing $400,000 cash, leaves town and ends up at the Bates Motel where she meets the troubled Norman Bates who seems to be dominated by his mother.
In this remake of Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece, Anne Heche takes over Janet Leigh's role of Marion Crane, a young secretary whose boyfriend, Sam Loomis, has troubles paying off a debt and his wife's alimony. One day, a rich client of her boss buys a house with $400,000 in cash. To fix her problems, Marion steals the money and heads out to California to live her dream life with Sam. But she gets lost in a bad storm and stops at the Bates Motel, where the proprietor, Norman Bates, lives a very troubled life with his dominating mother, whom he lives with in their house on the hill next to the motel. A week later, Marion has vanished and no one can find her or the stolen money, not even Sam, her sister, Lila, or a private detective who has been hired to find Marion and the money. But a deadly secret is waiting to be discovered inside the Bates house.
- When Phoenix secretary MARION CRANE, late 20s, meets her lover SAM LOOMIS in a seedy downtown hotel, she longs for the respectability of marriage. But Sam, owner of a hardware store in Fairview, California, burned by his previous marriage, is skittish of commitment, crushed by debt and alimony demands from his ex-wife, feeling incapable of supporting Marion in another marriage.
Marion returns to her job in a real estate office owned by MR. LOWERY, only to find that a vulgar Texan, MR. CASSIDY, is buying his daughter a house with cash - four-hundred thousand dollars. Both Marion and co-worker CAROLINE are stunned by all the cash, and Mr. Lowery, nervous, asks Marion to bank it on her way home, as shes developed a headache and is leaving early.
But Marion decides the money might buy her out of the dilemma with Sam, and she packs hastily, taking off in her car for Fairview with the cash stuffed in an envelope. On the way, she attracts the suspicion of a PATROLMAN, and Marion, increasingly agitated, trades her car for a new one - paying with five-thousand dollars from her stolen cash.
Haunted by fantasies that her crime will be discovered Monday morning, Marion runs into bad weather, checking into a rundown motel called "The Bates Motel," operated by young, neurotic, apparently callow NORMAN BATES, who is clearly attracted to Marion and talks about his dominating mother, whom Marion thinks she sees walking behind a bedroom curtain in the huge gingerbread mansion behind the motel.
Norman brings the disheveled Marion a quickly prepared supper, but, having heard the curses hurled at Norman by his vengeful mother, Marion has lost her appetite. In Normans parlor, decorated by the birds he stuffs as part of his taxidermy hobby, Norman talks of his mother, the burden of her difficult personality. When Marion returns to her room, she makes a decision to return the money in the morning, first calculating what she has spent. Unknown to Marion, the aroused Norman is watching her through a hole in the wall.
Marion disrobes, stepping into the shower, but shes suddenly attacked by what appears to be a crazed old woman in a dress and cheap fright wig - a brutal murder that leaves the bathroom splattered with blood. Norman is horrified when he finds the body, but ever the dutiful son, he cleans up the mess, wrapping Marion's body in the shower curtain and placing it in the trunk of her car, along with her newspaper, which, unbeknownst to Norman, contains the stolen money. Norman drives the car to a nearby swamp, pushing the car into the murky water that eventually claims it.
Meanwhile, Marion's sister, LILA, visits Sam, hoping to find her sister. A detective, SAM ARBOGAST, also shows up, hired by Marion's boss to locate Marion with a minimum of fuss. Sam makes it clear he has no idea where she is, despite Marion and Arbogast's theories to the contrary.
Arbogast follows Marion's trail, eventually coming across the Bates Motel, where he, too, sees a silhouette of an old woman walking behind a bedroom curtain in the old house. Arbogast interviews Norman, who is clearly nervous and obviously hiding something. Arbogast, not yet suspecting the worst, calls Lila, telling her that he thinks Norman is protecting Marion and that Arbogast intends to interview Norman's mother.
Arbogast returns to the property secretly, entering the house behind the motel and climbing the stairs to Normans mothers room. Before he reaches the top, Arbogast is savagely attacked, apparently by the same old woman, stabbed to death at the bottom of the stairs. Later, Norman carries his mother down to the fruit cellar to keep her safe, chatting with her all the way down.
With Lila and Sam wondering where Arbogast is, they grow curious about the Bates Motel, the detectives last stop. Sam visits the motel, but he finds out little. Later, he and Lila decide to visit SHERIFF CHAMBERS and his wife, MRS. CHAMBERS. But after laying out their suspicions, Lila and Sam are shocked to find out that Normans mother has been dead and buried for several years, found murdered in her bed with her lover. The next day, Chambers reports that he visited Norman but that everything seemed normal.
Certain they can find a clue if they visit the motel themselves, Lila and Sam check in under phony names as man and wife. They get into Marions room, finding two clues: a missing shower curtain and a scrap of paper indicating that Marion subtracted an amount from four-hundred thousand dollars. It doesnt prove much, however, since Norman never denied that Marion was there.
Determined to speak with Mrs. Bates herself, Lila heads for the house while Sam keeps Norman distracted in his office. Lila enters the house, searching for Mrs. Bates, moving about her empty bedroom, later Normans.
When Norman realizes that Lila has gone up to the house, he struggles with Sam, knocking him unconscious and running up to the house. Lila sees him coming, hides in the stairway leading to the cellar, then decides that Mrs. Bates might be down there, after all. Lila enters the cellar, approaching Mrs. Bates, who's sitting with her back to her in a chair. Lila touches the old womans shoulder, only to find that it isnt Mrs. Bates at all, but her rotted corpse!
Horrified, Lila shrieks in terror, her scream of terror joined by another scream û that of Norman, who, wearing a wig and a dress, is masquerading as his mother, wielding the same deadly knife he used to kill the others while in the same guise. Sam dashes in just in time to save Lila from the same horrible fate.
At the local courthouse, Lila, Sam and Chambers await word from psychiatrist, DR. SIMON, hoping to find out the truth about Marions fate. Following a GUARD whos taking Norman a blanket, Dr. Simon enters another room, where Norman, his back to him, sits in a strange calm. But when Simon asks Norman a question, the young man answers in his mothers voice. Indeed, the battle for identities has been won - Norman has become his mother. It is therefore Norman's "mother" who explains Normans pathological jealousy of her, how he killed her and her lover with strychnine, framing the mother, and then, experiencing such guilt, stole her body, weighted the coffin, then assumed her identity, hoping to erase the crime.
But the "Norman's Mother" half of his personality is now victorious, convinced that it was her son, not she, who killed Marion and Arbogast. Simon returns to Lila, Sam and Sheriff Chambers, explaining the bizarre split in Norman's personality.
Meanwhile, Norman, alone, has utterly become his mother, who, thinking in v.o., regrets having to incriminate her son. Noticing a fly as it comes to rest on her hand, Norman/Norma refuses to swat it, hoping that theyll observe the truth about her: that she wouldn't even harm a fly...