WWWWhaaaaaa? It’s pretty PSYCHO that this was made. It’s very good at not being scary, Vince Vaughn is obviously some psychotic nut from the moment you meet him (not sure why he turned the character into a gay guy with Asperger;s), and most of the movie makes no sense considering the era it takes place in. It was pretty wild watching these two back to back. It truly made this movie seem like a joke.
Gus Van Sant’s Psycho does serve a purpose: to show the complete pointlessness of shot-by-shot remakes. It’s especially pointless when the source material is nearly 40 years old and is a cinematic classic.
Watching Van Sant’s Psycho right after watching the original lets you see just how shot-by-shot (and line-by-line) the movie is. When does something go from being a remake to just being plagiarism? Because if there was ever a line for that, Psycho crosses it. The real problem is that this remake of Psycho adds nothing. The dialogue, made for 1960, is stiff and unnatural in 1998, especially in this cast of over-actors. It’s a good cast; Viggo Mortensen, Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, (among other, less good actors), but they’re acting like they’re in some weird stage play rather than a movie that takes place in 1998. I swear a little bit of Maude Lebowski comes out in Moore’s performance.
The two worst things about Van Sant’s Psycho are definitely Anne Heche as Marion Crane and Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates. When Janet Leigh played Marion Crane, she was a smart, attractive, modern woman. She dressed well, had her own job, and even walked around in her bra sometimes! She was cool and you wanted to root for her, even when she stole $40,000 (it helps that the guy she stole from was a creep who came onto her). When Anne Heche played Marion Crane, however, she played her as a weird, vintage-obsessed pixie lady. Between her alarmingly thin frame and abrupt pixie cut, she’s less of an attractive woman and more of a weird woman-child. She only wears vintage clothing; and not the kind of vintage that Janet Leigh would have worn, but maybe more like Janet Leigh’s aunt. She totes around a fucking pink parasol for goddsakes. For someone who has just stolen $400,000, she’s anything but inconspicuous.
Then there’s the tragedy of Vince Vaughn playing Norman Bates. He plays the character as if Bates is mentally retarded rather than mentally disturbed. If you’re not sure what the difference is, juxtapose the skipping and giggling of Vaughn’s Bates to the nervous smiles of Anthony Perkins’ Bates. When Anthony Perkins’ Bates watches Marion through a hole in the wall, there’s obviously a Peeping Tom element, but there’s no overt sexuality; it’s more about Bates being so closed off that he wants to see what a woman is like alone. When Vaughn’s Bates watches Marion, there are sounds (belt buckle, wet skin) of masturbation, which takes the scene to the obvious but unnecessary and gross conclusion. Vaughn also plays Bates as being weirdly effeminate, which doesn’t make him less scary only because he’s so weird.
Elements of the plot itself don’t make sense in 1998, like when Marion stops at the Bates Motel and Norman tells her she’s 14 miles from her destination. Why wouldn’t you just keep driving the 14 miles to your boyfriend’s? Especially once it stops raining, which it does almost as soon as she stops. And I could see a woman in 1960 maybe being trusting of a 1960 Anthony Perkins, because he’s got that boyish charm thing going on and is rather unsuspecting. But in 1998, if a woman traveling alone to a motel where she’s the only guest actually accepted the creepy owner’s invitation to eat sandwiches alone with him . . . well you still wouldn’t deserve to get murdered, but it would definitely make a murder not seem so surprising.
And, of course, because it’s a shot-by-shot remake, the whole psychiatrist’s explanation is still there in the end. It’s even stupider in a modern version. Why bother making a remake when you don’t even re-imagine it at all? Watching Van Sant’s Psycho might really be the most pointless remake ever.