Psycho (1998) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

In theory, this must have seemed like an interesting experiment.

Director Gus van Sant took the shooting script from the original Hitchcock version of Psycho and re-made it. Almost every word, almost every camera angle is identical to the original, word by word, frame by frame, and note by note of the sound track.

What can you say? I'm a film geek, so I watched it all the way through. I didn't really like it, but I found it fascinating as a curiosity item. It is entertaining, in a way, to hear actors from the 1990s try to negotiate the corny 1950s dialogue while trying to maintain credibility in the characters. Some of them did quite well, like William Macy, Julianne Moore, and Anne Heche, for example.

But it is a mystery to me why van Sant would want to spend months of his life doing this.

Psycho may not be one of the greatest movies ever made, but it is one of the twenty or so most memorable, and has fully entered the consciousness of mainstream culture. If SNL does a sketch on the Norman Bates school of motel management, there is no need to explain the reference. If Robin Williams does "Norman, is that you?" in the granny voice, everyone knows exactly what he's riffing on. Given those facts, the frame-by-frame remake seems downright gratuitous. It's in color now, but not much else has changed.

Vince Vaughn did bring a different kind of spirit to Norman Bates - kind of a giggly, affable outsider vibe which imparted his own spin on the role. That was undoubtedly an excellent idea, rather than simply attempting to mimic Tony Perkins, whose performance is a screen classic. Vaughn also added some obvious masturbation to the peephole scene.

I guess there's nothing really wrong with the film as a stand-alone except that it is old-fashioned to our eyes and ears, even with hip actors. It isn't graphic enough, fast enough, or tense enough satisfy the tastes created by the last forty years of slasher films, and the dialogue sounds artificial.


see the main commentary

DVD info from Amazon

  • Commentary by director Gus Van Sant and actors Vince Vaughn and Anne Heche

  • Documentary "Psycho Path", an intimate look at the making of Psycho (1998)

  • Widescreen anamorphic format

For our purposes, I suppose the best thing about the remake is that the new version has some nudity
  • There is a surprisingly graphic procto-cam shot of Anne Heche. I can't immediately recall many other noteworthy, mainstream actresses who have spread their cheeks on camera, so I guess that's something to remember the film by.
  • Future Tolkien superstar Viggo Mortensen also provided some nudity, if that's your preference.

Otherwise, I just don't see any reason for this film to exist.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus: one and a half stars. Ebert 1.5/4, Berardinelli 1.5/4.

The People Vote ...

  • Budget: $20 million. Domestic gross: $21 million. 
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a D+. If you remember and like the original, what do you need this for? If you dislike the original, this is the same thing, so you'll dislike this as well, and you already know the ending. If you don't remember the original, you'll find this too old-fashioned and tame for your modern taste. There's really no reason to watch except for curiosity, and some nudity from Anne Heche and Viggo Mortensen.

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