Psycho (1998) (Blu-ray)
Featurette-Psycho Path - Documentary
Additional Footage-International News Reel Footage
Additional Footage-Additional Shower Scene
|Year Of Production||1998|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Gus Van Sant|
William H. Macy
Philip Baker Hall
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
††† Even in 2015, simply the notion of remaking Alfred Hitchcockís Psycho seems every bit as ill-advised, pointless and idiotic as it did back in the 1990s. Why waste time and money to remake perfection? This ďwhyĒ can admittedly be addressed in a financial sense, since Universal likely assumed that there would be a built-in audience of curious fans and oblivious film-goers. However, there is no artistic motive to remake Psycho, especially with director Gus Van Sant staging a scene-for-scene, almost shot-for-shot aping of Hitchcockís original, except now itís in colour, stars a more modern cast, and is supported by a generous budget. A mostly limp, paint-by-numbers bore, 1998ís Psycho is still every bit as dreadful as ever, with the filmís shonky reputation now speaking for itself.
††† A real estate secretary earning a thankless wage who yearns to do more with her life, Marion Crane (Anne Heche) is entrusted by her employer to deposit $400,000 in the bank. (For those keeping score, it was only $40,000 in the original.) However, Marion perceives the sizeable sum of money as an opportunity for a fresh start, impulsively deciding to steal it and run. En route to visit her boyfriend Sam (Viggo Mortensen), an exhausted Marion pulls into the Bates Motel on a rainy evening, where she meets proprietor Norman Bates (Vince Vaughn). Events of this evening eventually turn violent, with the jealous rage of Normanís twisted mother putting an end to Marionís plans. Once Marionís disappearance becomes worrisome to those close to her, private investigator Milton Arbogast (William H. Macy) is recruited to hopefully put an end to the mystery.
††† Ironically, Van Sant once stated in a Newsweek article that he detests remake. In fact (irony of all ironies), he calls his Psycho an ďanti-remake film.Ē But producing something comparable to his ambitions requires a deft touch that simply eludes Van Sant, with the picture bearing no evidence of satire underneath its surface. Itís just extremely dreary and meaningless.
††† Remakes are not inherently bad, as some remakes have successfully produced a new, exciting interpretation of older material. Hell, recycling ideas and stories has been a staple of Hollywood since cinemaís inception - Akira Kurosawaís samurai masterpiece Yojimbo was remade as both A Fistful of Dollars and Last Man Standing, while John Sturgesí The Magnificent Seven was a western appropriation of Kurosawaís Seven Samurai. But Hitchcockís Psycho does not possess the type of transcendent premise that easily yields itself to a new reimagining, and apparently Van Sant himself even knew this. Thus, Van Sant actually re-uses Joseph Stefanoís screenplay for the original film, making a few minor changes along the way. Moreover, with Van Sant wanting to produce a shot-for-shot recreation, he constantly referred back to Hitchcockís film on-set, asking the performers to mimic movements to the best of their abilities.
††† Granted, if Van Sant made any major alterations, it may have alienated Hitchcock purists, but at least the project would have been bolder and more compelling. What if the entire story was told from Normanís perspective? What if Van Sant produced a page-for-page translation of Robert Blochís source novel? Instead, this Psycho is tragically gutless, with small changes that are detrimental if anything. There is some rear nudity, for instance, the setting is modernised, and Norman is unmistakably masturbating as he peeps on Marion. Thus, the movie copies Hitchcock without paying heed of his ďless is moreĒ approach. How ironic. Hereís the big problem: even if you want to praise something in 1998ís Psycho, you would be much better off praising the Hitchcock film. In fact, youíd be better off just watching the Hitchcock film as opposed to this drivel. Furthermore, one of the biggest reasons for Psychoís success in 1960 was because of how bold, original and unexpected it was, with strict cinema policies to avoid spoiling any surprises. But the twists are well-known now, lessening this remakeís impact, especially since it lacks unexpected twists of its own.
††† With Van Sant determined to include every line and pause from Hitchcockís original, nothing flows naturally; it all feels very awkward, with lines and actions included perfunctorily rather than organically. To be sure, the presentation is professional, as to be expected from the budget, while Danny Elfman recreates every cue of Bernard Herrmannís original compositions in rousing stereo. But with the film feeling so forced, this incarnation of Psycho is not particularly thrilling or scary, playing out in a slapdash fashion. Added to this, the movie feels strangely humdrum in colour, whereas Hitchcockís stylish black and white photography enhanced his filmís unnerving mood. Even the remade shower scene is an absolute dud, lacking the immediacy of the original film. Almost all shots are recreated (though pointless flashes of a stormy sky are thrown in as well), adding up to nothing except a lifeless imitation, much like the rest of the movie. Motion pictures are supposed to constantly evolve, with script revisions in pre-production and on-set, while editors continuously tinker with a movie in post-production, adding and removing shots, scenes or lines of dialogue. This is exactly why this Psycho never works, as itís too closely tethered to the original movie, stuck with moments that worked for Hitchcockís film but are simply ineffective here.
††† The performances are another issue, as the cast play surface-level impersonations of their characters instead of embodying them. Heche pales in comparison to Janet Leigh, and is unable to recite lines without sounding hopelessly forced. Mortensen is equally weak, and frequently sounds as if heís just reciting lines from nearby cue cards, though Julianne Moore and William H. Macy do fare slightly better. Most lamentably, Vaughn is unable to present a truly compelling interpretation of Norman Bates, despite his attempts to imitate a number of Anthony Perkinsí mannerisms. Itís actually quite amusing to look back at Vaughn trying his hand at a serious performance here, since he now works exclusively in comedy, and the notion of Vaughn in a straight-faced drama or thriller is sure to provoke ridicule. Vaughn fails to breath life into his portrayal of Bates, spouting the original dialogue in an often unconvincing fashion.
††† The makers of 1998ís Psycho obviously wanted to pay tribute to Hitchcockís exceptional work, but the film comes across as more of an expensive self-indulgent exercise - it was, after all, undoubtedly more fun for Van Sant and crew to make the film than it will be for an anybody to watch the fruit of their labours. All these years on, this remake is only worth watching as a historical curiosity, though there probably is an audience of young modern movie-goers who would prefer to watch this newer, colour version of Psycho over the ďoldĒ original. With its critical mauling, terrible reputation and box office failure, 1998ís Psycho has only served one useful purpose: It has discouraged other studios and filmmakers from doing another remake of Hitchís untouchable classic.
|Surround Channel Use|
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
† † On May 9th, 2017, Shout Factory released a Region A-locked Blu-ray edition. The transfer appears to be identical. Shout's edition misses out on the "Additional Shower Scene" and "International News Reel Footage" but adds:
|DVD||PlayStation 4, using HDMI output|
|Display||LG 42LW6500. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.|
|Speakers||LG Tall Boy speakers, 5.1 set-up, 180W|