Psycho (1998)
January 31, 1999

Y'know, I really didn't want to see this movie, but the winds of fate blew it to the Davis, so what the hell, right?

This movie seems to have been made primarily so a bunch of lazy film critics could make an easy contrast/compare essay to Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 original. Guess what? The new version is stinky!

The film's primary sin was that it was really boring. I really could give a damn about any of the characters. Their funky 60's wardrobe registered more than their personalities. The whole film was sprinkled with a distracting mishmash of 60's artifacts in a 90's world. Marion Crane drives a modern car while her boyfriend drives a 1940's truck. The cast wears hipster 60's clothing (the kind suburban kids would kill for), while Marion's sister says before leaving for the Bates Motel, "Let me get my Walkman." What's the point of all this 60's-90's hodge podge? I have no idea. It did nothing for me except make me think, "Oh look, they are wearing 60's clothes when it's 1998, how intriguing."

Vince Vaughn sucked beans as Norman Bates. It's obvious he's trying to copy the original performance of Anthony Perkins. Of course, I can't really hold him responsible for this, seeing as director Gus Van Sant seems intent on mimcry rather than any sort of creative interpretation of Hitchcock's film. Guess what? Vince Vaughn is not Anthony Perkins.

Anthony Perkins as Bates was effeminate, neurotic, sympathetic, but he could also be threatening. Vaughn lacks any sort of feminine qualities. I think the effeminate quality of Perkin's original performance was an integral part of the original film. I'm not exactly sure why, maybe it contributed to the vulnerability I felt in the character. Either way, I had no feeling of empathy for Vaughn's character. Vince Vaughn is seven feet tall. He's too threatening, menacing. Of course he's the killer.

One scene which stands out for me, where the new version completely loses the essence of the original is when Norman Bates is pushing Marion Crane's car into the swamp. In the original you are genuinely on the side of Norman. You believe he is covering up his mother's crime. When the car gets stuck as it is sinking, you fear for Norman. You are complicit in the cover-up. When the car resumes sinking under the slime, you feel the relief that Perkin's Norman obviously feels.

In the new version, as the car finishes sinking Vaughn lets out his nervous laughter, and seems pleased with himself at concealing the crime. It's obvious that he feels no remorse for Crane's death (whether he was responsible for it or not); you know he is not an innocent.

Anne Heche? Well, she's no Janet Leigh, but I don't need to tell you that. Julianne Moore (who played the sister) would have probably been much better in the role, but oh well.

I didn't need to see Heche's ass when she died, but didn't have time to look away. Now that I mention it, I didn't need to see her boyfriend's ass at the beginning of the film. Oh yeah, I didn't need to hear the sounds of Norman Bates masturbating while he was spying at Marion through the motel office's peephole. Kids, kids, just because we can now say "ass" on television doesn't make it an artistic statement.

This film is in color. Why? Don't ask me, I have no idea. The original could have been shot in color, but Hitchcock chose not to. Does color add anything to the remake? Well, in case you're wondering, human blood is red. The only thing I found mildly interesting about the use of color was the daytime highway scenes of Marion driving. Cinematographer Christopher Doyle has managed in these shots to simulate the appearance of Hitchcock's technicolor films. The footage looks like it was really shot thirty years ago. I half-expected Cary Grant to come running across the highway being pursued by a crop duster.

Hey, what the hell was with the shower scene? Anne Heche is getting stabbed, and all the sudden there are time-lapse images of rolling clouds? Was this an accident? Van Sant wants to ape Hitchcock shot-for-shot until he gets to a justifiably famous sequence of shots, and what does he do? He royally screws with it. It's different, and it's certainly not an improvement. Oy, I'll stop now.

But wait! There's one more thing. Remember the death of Detective Arbogast (Martin Balsam) in the orignal? It was kind of weird, wasn't it, with him "floating" down the stairs after getting stabbed? You'll be happy to know that they basically kept this in the remake. But they inserted an image of a cow on a road in the middle of the murder! Why? Did I make this movie? Why are you asking me? Go ask Gus Van Sant, who right now is probably remaking Drugstore Cowboy starring Kelsey Grammer (hmm, that doesn't sound half- bad).

See you at the movies. Save me the unstained seat.