So first of all, I've been saying it wrong. Gein rhymes with spleen, not spline*.
The original title is "In the Light of the Moon." It observes Ed Gein from his youth right up to the moment he was arrested for the murder of two local women.
Before you get all excited, know that the movie is virtually devoid of active gore. Only three actual assaults take place and none of them are anywhere near the level of carnage seen in some other movies Gein inspired. The lack of gore initially made me second-guess whether it counts as a horror flick. But it's emotionally and psychologically, if not physically, graphic. So it gets a pass.
As star Steve Railsback plays him, Gein is articulate and aware, but cut off in a vital way from the people around him. He's treated with kindness and sympathy by a few of his neighbors. But he definitely notices that most react awkwardly to him, although he can't seem to piece together why. Isn't everyone interested in head-shrinking techniques among South Sea natives? Or what happens to a decomposing body? Occasionally when conversing with others, he drops uncomfortable facts into the dialogue. Some respond with disbelieving laughter; others, unable to separate these bizarre interjections from their image of a man who's already a little odd to begin with, can only squirm.
On his own time, he exhumes corpses and stands over them, commanding in Biblical verse for them to arise. When they don't, he begins cutting. He creates house decorations out of these parts -- particularly gruesome is a lamp made out of a human spine. Compelled by the ghost of his mother, he eventually graduates to shooting the local bartender and letting her slowly bleed to death at his house. "You'll be fine," he tells her, and it's possible he really believes that. She begs to be taken to a hospital, but he points out that he'd be taken to jail. "I'd go crazy in a place like that," he says.
So he clearly understands that, by some definition of the word, what he's doing is a bad thing, but only inasmuch as he'd be punished for it. Beyond that, he's not troubled. He also seems to think that the controversy behind what he's doing goes no further than ordinary gossip. While hanging out with a friend, he confesses rather giddily that the bartender, whose disappearance is known by all at this point, is being kept at his place. Because of his chuckling delivery though, and his usual level of oddness, the friend interprets it as a bizarre practical joke and laughs hysterically.
Early one morning, he breathlessly creeps out of his house wearing a suit made from the skin of different corpses, takes a furtive look around and then begins to dance and bang on a metal pot. He's exhilarated, as anyone would be in such a gruesome state. But Gein lacks that remorse that would lead a saner person to couple that exhilaration with desperate misery. Rather, it's almost like he's just held up a bank or stolen a car.
Another word about the body part wearing. In one scene, he sits with a box of noses, trying on different ones, and then bursting with giggles at the sight of himself in the mirror. Now, accept for a moment that you'd be sitting with a box of noses, that you harvested yourself, to begin with. Wouldn't you get, like, the hugest kick out of trying them on? Contrast Gein here with Leatherface, who wears his mask of faces like he's a kid with a security blanket. Gein is a lot more like a kid working with clay who fashions a horn out of the stuff and then runs around the room pretending he's a unicorn.
In that we get to see these sides of Gein, this is perhaps far more of a drama than a horror flick. But if you absolutely need to get your fix of gore, you'll be pleased as to exactly what the police find first when they bust into his place.
One last thing: during one of Gein's many fantasies, he looks up from reading his Nazi book to see a scorching blonde (Heather Gettings) in SS issue lingerie sitting across from him. If anyone ever gets around to renting this movie, please please please get me a screen capture. Girl was slammin'.