What do Silence of the lambs, Psycho and Texas Chain Saw Massacre have in common? The characters of Buffalo Bill, Norman Bates and Leatherface are all based on the real-life killer and body snatcher Ed Gein, born in Wisconsin in 1906.
All this would make sense, if I was my mother.
Ed Gain was such a nice boy, caring for his highly religious paralyzed mother. Some time after his mother passed away, Ed was arrested on a suspicion of murder. In his house, the police discovered items made from human skulls, bones, hair and skin. In one of the rooms, they found rows of corpses arranged like an audience. Most of the bodies were from the local cemetery, where Ed dug up graves of middle-aged women he thought resembled his mother.
Under the Floorboards picks up the story in 1957. Mother has just died, leaving Ed alone, frightened and confused. But a ‘devoted’ mother doesn’t leave her son even at death, she finds a way to keep pushing Ed deeper into his pending doom. The point of no return is Ed’s realisation: “All this would make sense, if I was my mother.” Poor Ed gives into his murderous urges and turns his home into a house of horrors.
Under the Floorboards is a recording of the one-man horror show, strictly for an adult audience. The show is as compelling as it is unnerving, to the point where you ask yourself: Is it ok even to enjoy this? One of the highlights is Edwina, Ed’s female side personality, sharing some pretty gruesome home economics tips including human face masks and table lamps. A key success factors in horror is knowing what to show and what to leave to imagination. Under the Floorboards excels at this. The worst deeds happen in dark, with sound providing enough clues of what is going on.
For Simon Shaw, who not only performs, but has also written and directed Under the Floorboards, it has clearly been a labour of love. Shaw is a character actor with a strong background in mime. And boy does he make good use of his talent. Shaw portrays Ed as not just a monster, but also as a lost little boy. His childlike innocence makes a stark contrast to his macabre acts. Everything about him is spot on creepy: the wild hair, bony face, high-pitched voice, bulging eyes, slouched posture. Every inch is screaming: run for your life! My final though at curtain call was: Thank god I’m watching this at home.