In 1960, Alfred Hitchcock unleashed Psycho, an absolutely ingenious film about a boy and his mother. Though in black and white, Psycho was creepy and the actors in the movie were sensational. Anthony Perkins was Norman Bates... He is Norman Bates. So what was Gus Van Sant thinking when he decided to remake this? How can you remake a movie that is already at the peak of perfection? The answer is simple: You can't.
In Gus Van Sant's version of Psycho, there isn't much difference. He uses the same script, the same shots, and tries to get the same feel. It is 1998, but, judging by the clothes the characters wear, its not really 1998. It is in color, though, which doesn't really take away anything from the original, and, of course, there are new actors in the credits. Anne Heche is Marion Crane, the hopeless shower victim, Vince Vaughn replaces Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates, Julianne Moore plays Marion's sister, Viggo Mortenson is Sam Loomis, Marion's lover, and William H. Macy is the private investigator. So maybe they spent a little too much time on getting some well known people...
With the same camera shots and the same script, there is no way for Van Sant to improve on Hitchcock's formula - but not like you would want to. Hitchcock's filming was a masterpiece on its own. The problem is that when you have a movie that is almost identical in every way except for the actors and color, people who have seen the original (which is most people) already know what's coming. They know the ending, they know who dies, and they know about the shower scene.
Furthermore, some of the filming techniques used forty years ago look weird now. There are two prime examples: When Anne Heche is killed in the shower, the shot style is just weird. It looked good on the original; it looks bad in this one. Second: When William H. Macy falls down the stairs, the camera follows him and you can tell it is just fake (last time I recall, you can see how they do it at the Universal Studios tour), and, once again, it doesn't cut it in the 1990's.
But the absolute worst thing about this movie is the scene where Norman is looking through the peephole as Marion undresses. Norman masturbates. What was totally unnecessary, they put in, and it shows that any changes they put in (this was the only one) would screw things up.
This was one of the hardest reviews I had to do. By itself, Psycho (1998) is not a bad movie, but compared to the original, it bites. It really was a no win situation: If Van Sant changed something, it made the movie worse, and if he kept it the same, then there's no reason for it to be made in the first place. And that's what it comes down to... There was no reason for it to be made in the first place.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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