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Psycho (1998)

Reviewed By Erik Childress
Posted 02/17/00 05:08:49

"You Can Do a Lot Worse Than This Remake"
3 stars (Average)

Psycho (1998) (** Ĺ) - I thought Iíd be the last person to jump on the bandwagon of this film. I feel I have to fully justify my 2 1/2-star rating or Iíll be stoned by the film freaks of the world and Jesus wonít be there to stop it. So let me explain and hold on to your stones.

This film shouldnít have been made. Iíve said that since I first read the article in Variety earlier this year. And I still say it. That being said - you could do worse things with your moviegoing time than see this remake. Itís not like A Perfect Murder (which I liked) or even Christopher Reeveís mediocre Rear Window remake. Those films tried different versions of the basic stories. Since this is a virtual shot-by-shot, line-by-line remake of the original masterpiece, itís like watching a new version of a Shakespeare play. Think about it. Already in the 90ís weíve had two versions of Hamlet. Basically youíre watching the actors act out a classic story. And theyíre not bad overall. I had reservations about Anne Hecheís performance early on until she starts having the long conversation with Norman Bates. Janet Leigh gets the nod here. Iím also not a big Viggo Mortensen fan and he seems to switch from stud to hick to tough guy too often. John Gavinís performance made the final scenes in the original more effective. However, Julianne Moore does another great turn as the sister and she was a total pleasure to watch. I also thought the always-entertaining William H. Macy was right-on as the private eye. Martin Balsamís performance in the original was great and Macy is up to the challenge. That leaves the granddaddy of the filmís roles, Norman Bates. Vince Vaughn Iíd have to say - pulls off the role as best he could. Itís almost impossible to top the original Anthony Perkins performance, but Vaughn does a nice job bringing a level of credibility to the film. (Note: My stupid-ass screenwriting teacher while watching a clip from Psycho said - ďPerkins really was a bad actor, wasnít he?Ē After watching the original again a few hours before the remake, I think she should be shot. Then again she thinks Switchback is a great thriller.) Anyway, the film is not without error. One stand-out mistake almost drags the film down under for good. That mistake involves the ďpeeping tomĒ sequence. Letís just say, that what was implied before is no longer implied now - sound effects and all. It gets an unintentional laugh from the crowd twice (the second time when Bates covers his mouth after the shower scene and slowly moves his fingers away from his face) and the film is lucky to recover. We also didnít need to see Viggoís ass in the first scene. I know that shot wasnít in the original. And the shower scene isnít all successful either. Itís about half right. The slow motion opening revelation of the pulled curtain is unneeded. Neither is the final spread-eagle shot as she falls out of the shower. Regardless these are mistakes. Why didnít Universal shoot the exterior Bates House stuff on the original set at Universal studios. The new house isnít as menacing. I also miss the original Bates sign. Why are they mistakes? Because they are unnecessarily added shots. But I did enjoy the film on a certain level - primarily because they are doing a true remake of the film. They didnít try to improve (too much) on the original film which is a near-perfect masterpiece of suspense and storytelling. The pacing and music are all the same.

Maybe this film will get the younger ones who enjoy the recent barrage of crappy slasher films to know what real suspense and storytelling can be about. Maybe itíll get them to watch the original film. People were screaming during the appropriate shock scenes and perhaps thatís a good sign. I havenít heard screaming in the theater in a long time. Bottom line: The film shouldnít have been made. But Iíll watch it 100 times before I see any of the other crappy movies Iíve talked about before. So, please, put your stones down.

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