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
photo: Suzanne Tenner'
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.

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 voyeuristic scene.

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