"Psycho" is cinematic storytelling at its best. Suspenseful, scary, and yet not over-the-top, it's what so many have strived to achieve and yet failed at. With an unpredictable plot, unconventional cinematography, a score that enhances and not interrupts, this just might be the best movie of the year.
Except, whoops: Where have I seen this before?
It's extremely hard to critique a film based frame-by-frame on a classic. The most one can do is judge the actresses, the actors, the colors, the subtly reorchestrated music. But so what if all of these are up to par, or even brilliantly done? It's not a remake, it's a multicolored and expensive duplicate. At first I was afraid they'd meddle with the script and destroy a classic; now I wish they'd at last gone and done that. At least then they'd get credit for being creative. Now I wonder why I paid money to go in the theater to watch a mildly entertaining imitation rather than stayed at home and watched "Vertigo," or something. I do not in any way claim to be a Hitchcock and/or "Psycho" expert. The only Hitchcock film I've seen is "Psycho," and that was two years ago. Anything else I know about Hitchcock I learned from "homages." However superficial my understanding of the original may be, I do know that nothing much has changed except the actors. Even the sets, the cars, and the clothing seem to be stuck in the 1950s (except maybe Julianne Moore's walkman).
I don't know if it was the black-and-white or the fact that I had never seen the movie before, the first time I saw this movie it was much more exciting. Norman Bates's world seemed darker, drearier, gloomier. You could literally smell the "damp sheets" that he was describing. Here, Vince Vaughn's Norman Bates is well-acted, but he lacks the "look" Anthony Perkins had. Instead, this Bates is a little too amiable, too cute. The same goes for Anne Heche (as Marion Crane), who puts up a good fight but fails a just a little short of the duplicity, the fright, and the helplessness Janet Leigh conveyed. The shower scene would have been more terrifying, given the bright red against stark white background and more explicit shots, had we not experienced it before. In short, the movie was well done, but throughout the movie I couldn't help but ask Why and What induced the producers to make the exact same movie. I couldn't see the point. While those who haven't seen the original might find this movie entertaining, the majority of us who have seen it fail to see the purpose. When the initial thrill of seeing and hearing "Psycho" in full 90's cinematic glory had worn off, the rest of the film became a parade of dejavu that invoked a chuckle or two at some places, recognition and a little fright at some others. Gus Van Sant, a most admired director of mine, is less of a director than script supervisor in this production. Well, at least they didn't have to hire a screenwriter.
Rating: C (First viewing, 12/5/98)