If anyone attempted to do a remake to the 1960 classic "Psycho," it should have
been the Master of Suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock. He did that with "The
Man Who Knew Too Much." Hitch isn't around anymore and he's probably rolling in
his grave as director Gus Van Sant ("Drugstore Cowboy") attempts to step into
the limelight. This "Psycho" remake is a complete bastardization, a dull,
callous, near parodic film of little or no consequence.
Granted, I am aware that they have used Joseph Stefano's original, excellent
screenplay (almost word for word), and Van Sant has adopted the same angles and
camera shots through most of the film. But this movie is a recreation, in the
literal sense, not a remake. It replicates the original, but with none of the
grace, stamina or conviction that the actors or the director brought to the
original. Anne Heche comes off best as Marion Crane, but we'll get back to her
in a minute.
Anthony Perkins will always be Norman Bates, just as Harrison
Ford will always be Indiana Jones. Therefore, it is a shame to see another
actor step in his shoes. The shameful overacting by Vince Vaughn as Norman
Bates sheds no doubts in my mind. He has a self-deprecating type of laugh, but
he brings none of the wit, charm, or nervous tension associated with the
stuttering, sexually ambiguous Perkins. He's like a big baby who wouldn't harm
a fly, nor scare one either.
The marvelous cast on hand is a complete waste of time and
talent. There's Viggo Mortensen as Sam Loomis, originally played by John Gavin,
a hardware store owner who looks like he's poised to kill. Here's an actor
who's too seedy and animalistic to be normal, playing a boyfriend for the
second time in a Hitch remake, the first being the suspenseless "A Perfect
Murder." Julianne Moore is the biggest disappointment as the one-note
character, Lila Crane. I never imagined Moore to be faceless, unsympathetic,
and uninteresting, yet she manages all the same. Bring back Vera Miles! Worst
of all is William H. Macy as the flippant detective Arbogast dressed in a
blazing dark blue suit and wearing a ridiculous-looking fedora - how could
anyone take this guy seriously, including Norman? Macy's line readings are so
flat and antiseptic that I realized why the performers were so listless - they
brought no energy or conviction to their roles. They rattle through their line
readings quickly with no degree of nuance or diction. Ditto Robert Forster as
the psychiatrist in a final scene that was unnecessary in the original.
No one can blame the script, but you sure can blame Van Sant for
not recreating the feeling or the mood. There's no tension, no surprise. By the
time the marvelously sensual Anne Heche exits, the rest of the film flounders
searching for an identity. There is none. Philip Baker Hall is the only actor
who brings a sense of authority as Sheriff Chambers. Anne Heche brings class,
elegance and a wink of humor to Marion before she's offed.
The original "Psycho" is one of the few great horror classics of all time.
I've seen and studied it at least thirty to forty times. I have committed most
of the camera shots and dialogue to memory. I can sense Van Sant's giddiness in
stepping in the Hitch's shoes, and seeing the film through his eyes. I wish Van
Sant would use that giddiness to make an original creation of his own. I just
don't see the justification in making a colorized recreation of a film that was
Copyright © 1998 Jerry Saravia