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The F*cking Black Sheep: Psycho (1998)

11.22.2012by: Ryan Doom

THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!

Psycho (1998)
Directed by Gus Van Sant

ď To judge it based upon Hitchcock is an impossible task.Ē

Remakes. Everyone seems to got one. It's like a virus out of control. Or maybe itís like a nasty girlfriend who you canít stay away from. Theyíre painfully bad, yet for whatever reason, you keep coming back for more even though the ending is already known. However, hope remains that something new and different might just happen somewhere along the way.

To be fair, remakes arenít anything new as Hollywood has always been the worldís biggest recycling machine. If it isnít movies, then thereís always been the clip show or whatever. Of course, thereís varying degrees of remakes. Thereís low-level stuff like The Fog or The Mechanic thatís annoying, but no one really cares in the end. But when true classics are recrafted, people get pissed (looks at the shit Evil Dead is getting!).

Case in point: Psycho. Yes, the biggest, grandest, most famous horror film ever created Ė a perfect film (minus the in-case-youíre-too-dumb-to-understand ending) in nearly everyway, but it is old, so perhaps thatís why Gus Van Sant decided we needed a newer version with that goofy new guy from Swingers (this is back in í98 remember) and in stunning Technicolor! Actually, to be fair, Psycho isnít this untouched sacred cow. It had three sequels and thereís even a prequel on the way very soon as the first promo pics just hit the web (not to mention the bio movies out). But to be fair again, these are spin-offs, ways to keep the franchise without stepping on the shoes (probably some orthopedics in there) of a great Hitchcock.

Now, many would say Van Santís Psycho pissed all over Hitchcockís shoes, making sure they were good and damp then telling the world that it was done out of respect. Itís an easy movie to trash, really, especially since Van Sant decided to shoot the thing shot for shot, offering little if any new interpretation to the material. The few additions he did make, like Bates jerking off, didnít really add anything. If producers yearned to create an updated version, they really shouldíve brought new ideas, new concepts to the project. With that said, I donít really care. Van Santís Psycho remains an entertaining exercise with plenty of dumb faults, but damn it if it isnít enjoyable anyway. A truly bad remake is a train wreck. This isnít that. Itís more of a Ömisunderstanding.

Why? Well, for starters, everything looks great. It sounds great, but mainly itís the cast, who is all in, and if anything, I think the filmmakers made interesting choices. I actually forgot that Ann Heche was an actor considering I havenít seen her sinceÖVolcano maybe? Who knows, but damn is she's good as Marion Crane, giving the character a little more depth and a little more life to her. I knew she was gonna die, but I still rooted for her. William H. Macy has never disappointed but he plays the PI a little too standard, a little too 1960ís (and his death scene sucks. Whatís with the sheep and naked chick?). Viggo Mortensen and Julianne Moore as the boyfriend and sister feel thicker, giving them a little more anger, but so what.

It's the Norman Bates show after all, and while no one will every duplicate Perkinsí eerie and believable character, Vaughn tries. Boy does he try. And mostly, he succeeds with some moments, especially the dinner scene with Marion. The problem is Vaughn's become a different actor now so it's odd rewatching him in a dramatic role when heís been nothing more than the witty asshole for years. He's still good in the role, but Vaughn looks like he could be a killer. He's too tall, too thick. He looks like he might be able to kick someoneís ass. I think he would have been better off to play Bates slightly different, dropping the nervous laugh as he doesnít create the unsure nervousness. Vaughn always looks too confident. He might as well played him slightly stronger. Why not. Make the thing your own.

With all that said, itís not the actors who really caught shit for the movie. Van Sant got slapped pretty good, nearly ending his career (he didnít do anything of note until Ď08 with Milk), but he was screwed either way, so think of the remake this way: dig it as an experiment meant only for lovers of film. To judge it based upon Hitchcock is an impossible task, which, of course, is why people bitch to begin with so donít bitch for once. So get the family around for the holidays, relax, and try to watch the thing as its own thing, but be sure to keep a close eye on your mom or that odd brother you have. And if you can't do that, watch it like the most expensive film experiment ever.




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