Many may ask (in fact, many do) why anyone would
get it into their head to remake the Hitchcock
masterpiece from the 60's. Good question.
Unfortunately, I don't have an answer for you.
Nevertheless, it has been done and so let us deal
with it. Those of you who can remember the opening
of the original movie will recall how people held onto
their seats during the shower scene and possibly
even the ad which declared "Please don't give the
ending away. It's the only one we've got." Well,
anno 1999, we're way beyond that. It's hard to
imagine that anyone walking into the cinema
nowadays doesn't know what awaits them at the end
of this film. Of course, this version can always be
used for comparative analysis in film schools.
'Psycho © copyright 1998 Universal City Studios Productions inc./ UIP
Gus van Sant is an admirable director and each
movie he has made to date is a film of substance.
Although more acclaimed for "Good Will Hunting,"
his other memorable movies include "My Own
Private Idaho" and "To Die For". On this occasion,
he has chosen to remake a classic by following the
original screenplay almost verbatim and
accompanying it with a series of shots very near the
originals. Of course, this time it's in color, as
vibrantly announced by the green stripes in the
opening sequence. Danny Elfman's adaptation of
Bernard Herrmann's original score also insinuates
what is to follow, inasmuch as the tempo of the
famous introductory number is sped up as the story
that follows will also be. It is this upbeat tempo that
helps give the film more a feel of the 90's, but also
lessens the feeling of suspense. If this film has
made its premiere without the Hitchcock version ever
having had existed beforehand and without van Sant
at the helm, it would doubtlessly and unfortunately
have been relegated to the history books as a B-
movie. The suspense and shock found in the
original version is what maintains this movie's status
as a classic.
photo: Suzanne Tenner'
The events in the new version are made more
contemporary with here and there an update in style.
For example, during the opening shot of the skyline,
the camera now rides in and zooms all the way into
the hotel room without any cross fade. Hi-tech
computer technology has helped several effects in
various ways. There are also several visual jokes
scattered throughout the movie which will be enjoyed
by the attentive viewer, such as the memorable date,
time, and location notices superimposed over the
opening shots, the Hitchcock double standing on the
street outside the office where Marion works, the
addition of the creepy crawly spider, and the extra
added illustrative sound effects during the
Although it's not easy to compare the new cast
(including Anne Heche, Julianne Moore, Bill Macy,
and Viggo Mortensen) with the old one (respectively
Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, Martin Balsam, and John
Gavin) in a film of this order, special note must be
made of Vince Vaughn's performance as Norman
Bates, who, in fact, is the one arguable reason for
sitting through this kind of remake. Vaughn
manages to capture elements that were not in the
original. Here we see a man who has obviously
endured a stressful existence and whose
psychological imbalance is abnormal, to say the
least. His eyes, his reactions, his abrupt mood
swings, his smile and his laugh all show that
something is amiss in the head of darling Norman.
Perkins' portrayal, although disturbing and edgy,
was more lay back and seemingly natural. This time
around we've got an obviously sick boy to deal with.
His movements and actions display the effeminate
residue of a momma's boy whose life remains
trapped among the childhood souvenirs that abound
in his room. In this way, Vaughn's portrayal seems
to resemble the original character created by Robert
Bloch in his novel more closely than that that found
in the earlier film. Vaughn, however, is younger,
more attractive and thinner than either Bloch's
Norman Bates or the infamous Ed Gein, on whom
the character was based. The most remarkable
thing about this remake is the performance that van
Sant and Vaughn have produced, inasmuch as it
closely resembles a case study of an unstable mind
as well as being a tale of suspense.
Boys just wanta have fun. But sometimes things get
out of hand.
© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett