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The F*cking Black Sheep: Psycho (1998)

Nov. 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

To judge it based upon Hitchcock is an impossible task.

Remakes. Everyone seems to got one. It's like a virus out of control. Or maybe its like a nasty girlfriend who you cant stay away from. Theyre 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 arent anything new as Hollywood has always been the worlds biggest recycling machine. If it isnt movies, then theres always been the clip show or whatever. Of course, theres varying degrees of remakes. Theres low-level stuff like The Fog or The Mechanic thats 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 a perfect film (minus the in-case-youre-too-dumb-to-understand ending) in nearly everyway, but it is old, so perhaps thats why Gus Van Sant decided we needed a newer version with that goofy new guy from Swingers (this is back in 98 remember) and in stunning Technicolor! Actually, to be fair, Psycho isnt this untouched sacred cow. It had three sequels and theres 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 Sants Psycho pissed all over Hitchcocks shoes, making sure they were good and damp then telling the world that it was done out of respect. Its 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, didnt really add anything. If producers yearned to create an updated version, they really shouldve brought new ideas, new concepts to the project. With that said, I dont really care. Van Sants Psycho remains an entertaining exercise with plenty of dumb faults, but damn it if it isnt enjoyable anyway. A truly bad remake is a train wreck. This isnt that. Its more of a misunderstanding.

Why? Well, for starters, everything looks great. It sounds great, but mainly its 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 havent seen her sinceVolcano 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 1960s (and his death scene sucks. Whats 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 Perkins 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 hes 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 someones ass. I think he would have been better off to play Bates slightly different, dropping the nervous laugh as he doesnt 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, its not the actors who really caught shit for the movie. Van Sant got slapped pretty good, nearly ending his career (he didnt do anything of note until 08 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 dont 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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5:09PM on 11/26/2012

I like it as a experiment as well.

I didn't think, it was as bad some of the die-hard critics and fans of the original 1960 classic. I thought Anne Heche was truly good in the movie, she was the standout giving an different Marion Crane performance. She came off memorably well. I think Vince Vaughn is miscast in the movie. He does give something different for the Norman Bates character but he seems so out of place. For all its flaws, i have it on DVD and i think, it is still work a look. Especially those, who study cinema.
I didn't think, it was as bad some of the die-hard critics and fans of the original 1960 classic. I thought Anne Heche was truly good in the movie, she was the standout giving an different Marion Crane performance. She came off memorably well. I think Vince Vaughn is miscast in the movie. He does give something different for the Norman Bates character but he seems so out of place. For all its flaws, i have it on DVD and i think, it is still work a look. Especially those, who study cinema.
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3:34PM on 11/23/2012
I liked it. It amuses me a movie that's virtually identical to the much loved original gets such flack for being a bad movie. It always struck me as an interesting filmaking experiment that ultimately failed. I'd be down for another remake but one that does it's own thing. That said I'm just about to watch the origianl on blu.
I liked it. It amuses me a movie that's virtually identical to the much loved original gets such flack for being a bad movie. It always struck me as an interesting filmaking experiment that ultimately failed. I'd be down for another remake but one that does it's own thing. That said I'm just about to watch the origianl on blu.
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3:01PM on 11/23/2012
i cant believe the number of spelling errors in this piece
i cant believe the number of spelling errors in this piece
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6:37AM on 11/23/2012

"To judge it based on the Hitchcok film is an impossible task"

No kidding and that's why it sucks. In all fairness I thought it was an interesting experiment to remake a film in this manner but its also its downfall, you cant help but think about the original and how superior it is every second it plays out. The concept mightve held up better if they wouldve cast a stronger Norman Bates, like say Jermey Davis, but then again i dont think this ever couldve worked.
No kidding and that's why it sucks. In all fairness I thought it was an interesting experiment to remake a film in this manner but its also its downfall, you cant help but think about the original and how superior it is every second it plays out. The concept mightve held up better if they wouldve cast a stronger Norman Bates, like say Jermey Davis, but then again i dont think this ever couldve worked.
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1:52PM on 11/22/2012

THANK YOU!!!

Thank you! It will have been 14 years on December 4th since this film opened and it took this long to hear something descent about Gus Van Sant's VERY mis-understood re-make of PSYCHO. I was soooo excited to see this when it came out in 1998. I was a huge fan of the original. And I'm proud to say I'm a fan of this one too. So much so that I have a tattoo of PSYCHO and it's the ONLY tattoo I've ever gotten. I am a big fan of Hitchcock and as far as Van Sant is concerned, he is very hit and miss
Thank you! It will have been 14 years on December 4th since this film opened and it took this long to hear something descent about Gus Van Sant's VERY mis-understood re-make of PSYCHO. I was soooo excited to see this when it came out in 1998. I was a huge fan of the original. And I'm proud to say I'm a fan of this one too. So much so that I have a tattoo of PSYCHO and it's the ONLY tattoo I've ever gotten. I am a big fan of Hitchcock and as far as Van Sant is concerned, he is very hit and miss with me. Mostly miss. I did like ELEPHANT and MILK. And despite this, I do not feel that Van Sant in any way was disrespectful of Hitch. I find this version fascinating. I'm glad he did it. I just watched again about a month ago and feel the same way. The critics just don't seem to understand it and that's fine. If everyone loved your movies I don't think there would be a great point in making them. There has to be detractors. It was an experiment and if anything I hope Van Sant had a good time attempting to see what it was like to walk in Hitchcock's footsteps. Thank you for the re-make Gus! And, FYI, I read recently that believe it or not Van Sant is going to attempt yet another version of PSYCHO. That's crazy! I hope he gets to do it! Thanks for the post!!!
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1:52PM on 11/22/2012

THANK YOU!!!

Thank you! It will have been 14 years on December 4th since this film opened and it took this long to hear something descent about Gus Van Sant's VERY mis-understood re-make of PSYCHO. I was soooo excited to see this when it came out in 1998. I was a huge fan of the original. And I'm proud to say I'm a fan of this one too. So much so that I have a tattoo of PSYCHO and it's the ONLY tattoo I've ever gotten. I am a big fan of Hitchcock and as far as Van Sant is concerned, he is very hit and miss
Thank you! It will have been 14 years on December 4th since this film opened and it took this long to hear something descent about Gus Van Sant's VERY mis-understood re-make of PSYCHO. I was soooo excited to see this when it came out in 1998. I was a huge fan of the original. And I'm proud to say I'm a fan of this one too. So much so that I have a tattoo of PSYCHO and it's the ONLY tattoo I've ever gotten. I am a big fan of Hitchcock and as far as Van Sant is concerned, he is very hit and miss with me. Mostly miss. I did like ELEPHANT and MILK. And despite this, I do not feel that Van Sant in any way was disrespectful of Hitch. I find this version fascinating. I'm glad he did it. I just watched again about a month ago and feel the same way. The critics just don't seem to understand it and that's fine. If everyone loved your movies I don't think there would be a great point in making them. There has to be detractors. It was an experiment and if anything I hope Van Sant had a good time attempting to see what it was like to walk in Hitchcock's footsteps. Thank you for the re-make Gus! And, FYI, I read recently that believe it or not Van Sant is going to attempt yet another version of PSYCHO. That's crazy! I hope he gets to do it! Thanks for the post!!!
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10:58AM on 11/22/2012
I actually like the remake. It's a good homage to Hitchcock's Psycho. Sure, it played safe - played it pretty much straightforward remake. The end result was pretty much Psycho in color film. However, I think Psycho is Vince Vaughn's best performance todate.
I actually like the remake. It's a good homage to Hitchcock's Psycho. Sure, it played safe - played it pretty much straightforward remake. The end result was pretty much Psycho in color film. However, I think Psycho is Vince Vaughn's best performance todate.
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