Psycho (1998)

Fresh from the pile of DVDs Alex got me for my birthday comes this remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 masterpiece. What I didn’t realise was that Alex obviously hates me, and I’d like to apologise for whatever I did to deserve this obviously sarcastic present.

Psycho

PsychoWe all know the story – Marion Crane, here played by Anne Heche, steals some money and goes on the run, only to wind up in the isolated Bates Motel with its owner Norman, here played by Vince Vaughn. Yes, that Vince Vaughn.

Total Film described this film as “the definition of pointlessness” and I’m inclined to agree. At the best of times, remakes display a paucity of creativity, but at least they generally try to do something a bit different to the original. This cannot be said for Gus Van Sant’s Psycho, which is exactly the same as Hitchcock’s film; shot for shot, note for note, word for word. Well almost – I don’t remember anyone saying “let me get my Walkman” in the 1960 version.

All this begs the question: What’s the point? The only real difference between the two films is that this one is in colour. But if Hitchcock had wanted Psycho to be in colour, he would have made it in colour, as he had with three of his films at that point. But other than the colour, the cast and the odd line of dialogue, this remake is identical to the original, from Joseph Stefano’s screenplay to Bernard Herrmann’s score. So why did they even bother? Is it an homage? A joke? Or just a complete waste of time?

PsychoIt’s the latter, obviously. Not only do we know exactly what’s going to happen, we also know exactly how it’s going to happen. In fact, the opening titles – which of course look the same as in the original – claim that this film is “directed by Gus Van Sant”, which is basically a big fat lie. It’s directed by Alfred Hitchcock; these are his shots, his compositions, his ideas. All Gus Van Sant did was replicate them, like tracing the Mona Lisa in a classroom or playing a cover of Stairway to Heaven in a pub. So really Gus Van Sant is taking credit for Hitchcock’s work, effectively making this one massive piece of plagiarism.

“I know what would improve Psycho,” thought Gus Van Sant, “Vince Vaughn!” Norman Bates is an iconic character thanks to Anthony Perkins’ boy-next-door performance. Vince Vaughn does not look like the boy-next-door; he looks like Vince Vaughn. He swaggers around parroting classic lines of dialogue in an unbearably self-conscious manner. The rest of the cast are good, including Julianne Moore, William H. Macy and Viggo Mortensen, but the question remains: What’s the point?

If you’re going to have the arrogance to remake a film as masterful as Psycho, at least have the courage of conviction to actually change it. Every second of this movie just makes you ache for the original, which is exactly the same but infinitely better. Rather than watch this infuriating piece of utter pointlessness, just watch Hitchcock’s movie and scribble on your TV screen in coloured crayon. Gus Van Sant’s version is enough to turn anyone psycho.

Psycho

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5 responses to “Psycho (1998)

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