Time: 104 Minutes
Gus Van Sant doesn't always create movies that I love, but at least he tries to be innovative within the medium. I understand the allure of PSYCHO. It's one of my favorite movies...that I can barely stand to watch. I first saw it at the age of 14 while doing my afternoon chores. I thought I could handle it. I couldn't have been more wrong. I, like most of the initial audience, had never seen anything like it. Hitchcock may have been the master of murder and mayhem, but he had never been as brutal and bloody as this. Especially to the character everyone assumes is the protagonist of the story. It was a brilliant master stroke of movie making and it frightens me to this day. The original is scary, not because of it's brutality, but because of the pure, unassuming, supposedly harmless nature of Norman Bates. His transformation is what makes the movie horrifying...and what makes this updated version downright laughable.
Since I am a big fan of the original, I was somewhat appalled at the idea of Van Sant filming this shot-for-shot remake. The idea of him doing a modernized interpretation gave me even greater pause, but I just couldn't understand what the challenge would be. Why a director would basically just copy someone else? What would there be for him to do? On the other hand, the fact that he did it, actually created an exact duplicate, with perfect lighting, the same sets, is a true marvel. It's kind of creepy, like a recurring dream with a different cast of characters, but the same dialogue and action. It's cinema déjà vu and he almost pulls it off, but alas...
The main reason it doesn't work it's not original. Everybody already knows the big secret, which kind of takes the steam out of a horror movie. Is that to say you don't beg Anne Heche not to step into the shower? Of course not. You know what's coming, you can't wait to see it, but it still isn't the same. I thought it would be more brutal in color, but it actually wasn't. In fact, I find the Janet Leigh scene to be much worse. I was distracted by Anne's flesh against the whiteness of the tub. I kept expecting to see something, a naughty bit here and there. Obviously, since you didn't see Janet's you don't see Anne's, but still...she just seemed more naked. I also can't decide whether I liked the retro look of everything or not. He included some modern things Lila Crane listens to a walkman but everything else, from the clothes to the cars, has a distinct 50s feel, even though you know it's the 90s. Convenient for Van Sant the era is back "in" again. It definitely makes the color thing go down easier, giving the film an old-fashioned look and sensibility. Nothing bad ever happened in the 50s, so how could there be a lunatic running around stabbing people?