Movie Name: Psycho
Studio: Image Entertainment
Release Date(s): December 4, 1998
MPAA Rating: R
Marion Crane (Anne Heche) has made a mistake. Entrusted with $400,000, Marion has run off instead of running to the bank. Now a hunt is on for her and her sister Lila (Julianne Moore), Marion’s boyfriend Sam Loomis (Viggo Mortensen), and detective Milton Arbogast (William H. Macy) are out to find her. As Marion debates what to do with her decision, Marion makes a second mistake…she checks into the Bates Motel and meets Norman Bates (Vince Vaughn). Unfortunately for Marion, Norman’s mother doesn’t like women around her boy.
Directed by Gus Van Sant, Psycho is a nearly shot-for-shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 horror classic. The movie was released to both criticism and questions on why the director chose this project and the movie bombed at the box office.
The news of a Psycho remake had me (along with most others) scratching their head. Not only did Alfred Hitchcock’s movie not need remaking, there was no life given to it by a “fresh look” at the film or story. Instead, you get a watered down version of the original which is neither believable or shocking as it was when it was first released in 1960.
The first problem with the remake is the story. This is ironic since it is the same story as the original (which doesn’t have problems). The reason Psycho doesn’t have problems is that it was made in 1960. The idea of a split personality, crossdressing killer was shocking…I have tried to imagine what it was like going into to Psycho and having no clue what was going to happen (and can’t do it). Here, we know the story and there have been so many more studies of killers and crossdressers that it seems very vanilla (and a kind of dumbed down insulting pop analysis).
The second problem is the casting of Vince Vaughn. I don’t like Vaughn, but he bombs here in a big way. Anthony Perkins’ Bates was sympathetic and shy…Vaughn’s Bates comes off as “psycho” way before he is revealed to be psycho. He’s kind of obnoxious. I do like Moore as the more proactive sister and Anne Heche is so-so as the victim Marion. Mortensen feels out of place, but Macy gets his role right. The movie features cameos by Rita Wilson, James Remar, Philip Baker Hall, Robert Forster, and Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Flea (Van Sant also does a Hitchcock cameo at the same place where Hitchcock cameoed in the original film).
Many have argued that Gus Van Sant (who is a talented filmmaker) wasn’t really going out to remake Psycho but was studying the idea of a shot for shot remake. If this is the case, he succeeded, but he also succeeded in showing how much better Hitchcock was. The movie’s visuals just don’t have the same effect as the original film and if it had been in black-and-white (a decision made by Hitchcock), it maybe could have carried some of the visuals better.
I will give Psycho this…it was a bizarre experiment. I wish it hadn’t happened and could have accepted a less iconic Hitchcock film being remake in this style. The Psycho story is a bit overplayed and fortunately, we didn’t see sequels to this movie. Norman Bates did however return to the screen when A&E launched Bates Motel in 2013.
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