Psycho (1998)
Rating -

Horror (US); 1998; Rated R; 96 Minutes

Cast
Vince Vaughn: Norman Bates
Julianne Moore: Lila Crane
Viggo Mortensen: Sam Loomis
William H. Macy: Milton Arbagast
Phillip Baker Hall: Sherrif Chambers
Anne Heche: Marion Crane

Produced by Brian Grazer, Gus Van Sant and Dany Wolf; Directed by Gus Van Sant; Screenwritten by Joseph Stefano

Review Uploaded
12/18/98

Written by DAVID KEYES

Okay, Gus Van Sant: you've stated time and time again that your long-awaited remake of Hitchcock's "Psycho" would be worth the wait. You've claimed over the past year that it's a shot-by-shot remake, purposely made to 'honor' the master of horror. You've said that the movie is strictly made on the original script, simply because you feel it's time to make use of the 'technology' in such a movie that was simply not available at Hitchcock's time. Buttock shots, frontal nudity, severe stab wounds, pools of blood--most of these things couldn't have possibly made it past the censors in 1960. Now that every other movie in theaters today makes use of one of these characteristics, you say this is a good opportunity to update the movie as "it was meant to be": More blood, more gore, more nudity, and heck, even more Norman Bates.

Now your movie has arrived. This gives you an opportunity to try and impress me: do anything you can to make me see that this 'update' was needed. Scare me, impress me, tantalize me, psyche me. Do everything you said you would; prove to me and to the world that this remake was worth the wait. Can you live up to that?

But what's this? I sense some hesitation! Oh, you've indeed made your remake on the same script as Hitchcock's movie, but you neglected just one teensy weensy thing: the shock; the horror, and the element of surprise that worked so well in the older, black and white version. Everything else is there (including that mysterious, intriguing story about Bates and his mother), but it's not scary or even tantalizing. You put all your eggs into one basket for this one. Not many of them hatched.

Maybe it's because your approach is wrong. No wait--maybe the whole idea is wrong! If you expect to remake a movie, make one that can be improved upon. Hitchcock's film, you must admit, was one of those special, flawless masterpieces that did not deserve to be touched by others. "Psycho" belongs to the master of suspense, and the master of suspense only. If he had wanted it done better, he would have told you. Then again, he's no longer with us; maybe you should take the advice of leaving a dead man's great films alone.

And what's with all that blood? Do you call it an "improvement" to add more blood in that shower scene than the normal human body carries? Heck, I find it downright impossible for a woman like Anne Heche to survive for a few split seconds after she's been stabbed numerous times with all that missing blood in her body. In fact, I'm surprised she didn't collapse and die right on the spot, instead of hanging on just long enough for us to see her suffering.

And speaking of suffering, let us talk about that ridiculous opening scene where Marion Crane and Sam Loomis get dressed from their ongoing affair. Viggo Mortensen is good to play Loomis, but what's with the butt shot? Is this another one of your 'improvements?' Or is that just a fast ploy to see if any fans of the original movie were paying attention and could tell the difference between scenes? I dunno about you, Van Sant; you've made great movies like "My Own Private Idaho" and "Good Will Hunting." Was a remake with a few minor new 'improvements' really needed? Couldn't you have used all this time to make another one of your great movies? Or, are you running out of new ideas? If you call this a new idea, then I'd be much obliged not to touch the subject with a 40-foot pole.

Still, you've gotta give credit to your Norman Bates. Vince Vaughn is probably the best person you can get to fill Anthony Perkins' shoes; he can be one of America's best film stars one day, and that is evident in the way he treats his character on screen. He smirks, tilts his head, lifts his eyebrow, and speaks to Marion Crane like he knows her. I especially like that one shot where he smiles and speaks Bates' most famous line, "we all go a little mad some times." Judging from the rest of the film, though, perhaps he was referring to you?

Maybe, as a film expert, this will teach you a valuable lesson. You should have known that you couldn't have gotten away with doing this movie, and judging by other reviews, you really haven't. Promise me that the next time you decide to remake something, you will take these words into consideration: if you don't know the song, don't try to sing it.


1998, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org. Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
 
 
           
     
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