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Overall Rating

Awesome: 5.07%
Worth A Look: 15.94%
Average: 18.84%
Pretty Bad: 23.91%
Total Crap36.23%

4 reviews, 114 user ratings

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Psycho (1998)
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Such a terrible idea that it should've been great; it isn't."
2 stars

To prepare for the high-concept new run-through of 'Psycho,' I intentionally didn't revisit Alfred Hitchcock's classic. I last saw it a few years ago, and I didn't want it fresh in my mind.

Critics are supposed to review what's in front of them, but we often don't; we compare a film to the better film in our heads -- whether it's an adaptation of a book we love (in which case we've already made the movie in our imaginations), or a remake of a movie we love. The new Psycho is both an affront and a challenge to critics. Can we allow Gus Van Sant to escape the large shadow of Hitchcock -- and should we, given that Van Sant has quite willingly placed himself there?

The new Psycho seems such a dumb idea that, perversely, it has slowly become a fascinating idea. A shot-for-shot remake of a film already etched in the memories of movie buffs? Van Sant and his new cast have taken up the challenge, and, contrarian that I am, I'd love to fly in the face of American film criticism and report that the result is a postmodern triumph of appropriation and homage. But Psycho doesn't do much for Van Sant, and he doesn't do much for Psycho. Gus Van Sant should stick to being Gus Van Sant; those familiar with his idiosyncratic early work (Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho) may get depressed by his subjugation of his personality. Van Sant has both eyes on Hitchcock throughout: The Master blots out Van Sant's own vision.

Van Sant's Psycho comes to seem more of a stunt, a novelty, than an experiment. For a while, the hot rumor was that Van Sant had scrupulously reproduced the original film up until the famous shower scene -- at which point he veered off in a whole other direction. The rumor had some credibility: People expecting a remake from first shot to last would be shocked, the way audiences were shocked at Janet Leigh's abrupt death in 1960. That would be a great, ballsy way to redo Psycho -- a prankish tribute to Hitch's power to catch us leaning the wrong way, and precisely in the mischievous Hitchcock spirit. Sadly, the rumor turns out to be just that. Van Sant's Psycho is faithfully Hitchcock's Psycho in word and deed -- if not in spirit or style.

Not all remakes are evil: John Carpenter's The Thing and David Cronenberg's The Fly are less remakes than remixes of oldies-but-goodies. But why remake something if you don't add anything of yourself? That's what Psycho lacks, though fans of Van Sant will bend over backwards to cite parallels to his early work -- a gay subtext, for instance. And it's pointless to remark upon how slavishly a director apes another's work. Van Sant does it, all right -- though he can't resist splicing a few Private Idaho-like random images into the murder scenes, as if the knife slashes were tearing open the killer's subconscious, or some such heady nonsense. But you or I could do the same dupe job, given $25 million. (That may be part of Van Sant's subversive, Warholian point, which I'll get to in a moment.)

So all a critic can really do with the new Psycho, besides the obvious "compare and contrast" game, is comment on the new faces. I wanted to like Anne Heche and Julianne Moore, two of the best actresses now working, but they're playing ciphers (a limitation, I think, to be blamed on Joseph Stefano's script), so they can't add much besides irritation or fear. Vince Vaughn's Norman Bates won't make you forget Anthony Perkins, but he's not supposed to. Once I got used to Vaughn's take on Norman -- a giggly, libidinous little boy, rather than Perkins' gawky adolescent -- I enjoyed his performance, which has reserves of sadness and pain equal to what Perkins, in his own style, gave Norman. Other actors, like William H. Macy and Viggo Mortensen, bring little to the party. They're in the same boat as their director, who's too intent on duplicating Hitch's set-ups to show his usual mindful touch with actors.

Gus Van Sant comes from the Warhol school of anti-art, found art, appropriation and deadpan irony. So this remake may be his comment on remakes (which he says he hates) -- proof positive of the artistic bankruptcy of the form. Yet the only way a Psycho remake can work as a rebuke to remakes is if it flops -- showing the studios, in the only way they understand, that remakes are a dead end. If Psycho is Van Sant's fuck-you to Universal for bankrolling a remake of a classic, I suppose it makes a perverse sort of sense that Hitchcock himself, who had no love for studio executives, might have appreciated.

'Psycho' will be debated for months in the film journals: Does its pointlessness have a meaning beyond itself?, blah blah blah. That's in the great tradition of artists -- who are often the same as con artists.

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originally posted: 01/27/07 04:50:56
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User Comments

3/25/18 morris campbell lame pointless remake of a great film 1 stars
2/08/17 Louise The most pointless remake ever. Why was it even made?? 1 stars
10/16/15 David Hollingsworth pointless and absolutely forgettable 1 stars
10/09/10 art PSYCHO 2 from 1983 was better than this RETREAD of the 1960 ORIGINAL! 1 stars
3/26/09 Anonymous. psycho is one of the many movies that doesnt require a remake. 2 stars
2/13/08 chris true to the original (good) 4 stars
10/21/07 Rae Nope. Not working for meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee 2 stars
2/19/07 Nick Maday Not the best remake out there. 3 stars
1/27/07 action movie fan lame pointless remake the original is and will always be the best 2 stars
12/01/06 David Pollastrini why not just colorize the original? 4 stars
9/25/06 DK i enjoyed it, mind i never saw the original 4 stars
7/11/06 David Cohen Van Sant's lesson in humility, pity he didn't learn anything 2 stars
12/03/05 cody a poor remake but like the original one, but actors and directing suck bad! 2 stars
11/19/04 screb viggos ass was the only decent thing in it 2 stars
8/16/04 sally anne mchugh it was brilliant vince rocks i hope he brings more movies like that out 5 stars
7/31/04 jmsynth Pointless, but the original is so good this is at least enjoyable. 3 stars
7/10/04 chantelle d. this movie wuz ok 3 stars
6/07/04 Ryan Clark Same as the original, save for slightly altered dialogue, but lacks the originality. 2 stars
3/23/04 Trannon Goble How could they?? 2 stars
12/09/03 Samuel Its a shot for shot remake..why does everyone think this sucks, its the same!!! 3 stars
11/27/03 John why? 1 stars
10/10/03 Erik Van Sant Blasphemy! How do you manage to fuck up a shot-for-shot re-make? Watch and learn. CRAP 1 stars
10/01/03 Samuel Justus As the origional! 3 stars
8/12/03 Double G I hated this movie, but its still better than the piece of krap psyco(1960)! I hate both!!! 1 stars
6/19/03 Lush You thought Vanilla Sky and 101 Dalmations was pointless? Just wait till you see this 2 stars
3/25/03 Jack Sommersby Well-photographed but utterly pointless. 2 stars
11/24/02 Kyle Oh, please....... 1 stars
11/02/02 Logan ITS THE SAME FUCKING MOVIE!!! 1 stars
8/16/02 Shaun Something about black and white film that made the first better than this POS 2 stars
4/28/02 Butterbean Both of those films suck, it's just that the original was a novelty. 2 stars
2/12/02 Meryl K. Crap. Crap. Crap. Not even Viggo could've saved this one. 1 stars
1/17/02 David A. The masturbating scene weakened it. The real (1960) Norman was a killer, not a typical teen 3 stars
12/09/01 Cracked head What the hell is this? 1 stars
11/21/01 Chris K. Is Gus Van Saint making any films today? No, and thank God! BAD DIRECTOR! 1 stars
9/30/01 Andrew Carden A Very Scary, Well Done Film. 4 stars
8/07/01 Mr. Hat If U've already seen the original version,U don't need to see this.It's the same damn movie 3 stars
8/06/01 E-Funk I can't believe I share the same last name as the director of this film. Horrible idea. 1 stars
6/07/01 Dean Awful acting, laughable costumes, idiotic remake. May Gus Van Sant burn in hell. 1 stars
4/26/01 Spetters WHY!!!???????!!!!!!!!!!! 1 stars
4/16/01 Rampage I agree with you, Monster W. Kung! Sucked shit! 1 stars
3/25/01 Monster W. Kung One of the lamest remakes ever. A huge pile of steaming shit. 1 stars
2/15/01 KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi Neither honored nor insulted the original. Great cast. 4 stars
11/28/00 Cristopher Revilla i hope that the originator of this shitbag burns in hell and be haunted by hitchcocks curse 1 stars
9/14/00 Ground Zero Get that Van Sant dud off that site! That remake sucked like shit! 1 stars
7/23/00 Tyler Peterson Whoever thought up this horseshit should be drug out into the street and shot. 1 stars
7/18/00 Digitalus Tell that Van Sant dud to sthu (shut the hell up)! This stinks on the classic 1 stars
6/05/00 JonnyA This film didn't need to be made, but Vince is a mufuckin pimp, biznatch. 3 stars
5/29/00 todd ugh 1 stars
5/05/00 TIGGER This shits on the original 1 stars
4/15/00 malcolm not as good as the original but 1000 x better than any scream movie 4 stars
3/09/00 Mr. Kramitall That's not Norman beating off, it's Van Sant. Lowlife killed Psycho. 1 stars
2/06/00 Kyle Broflovski Neither honored nor insulted the original. Really good cast. 5 stars
1/25/00 Chris Whitney I loved it. A neat twist on a classic 5 stars
12/18/99 SID I figured since it was only retreading the original, it couldn't be that bad. Oops. 2 stars
10/20/99 Lame-Oh Worse than The Haunting! Why screw up a perfect classic? 1 stars
8/19/99 Matthew Bartley WHY? 1 stars
7/04/99 J-Dogg What's the point of remaking a masterpiece if you're not gonna improve anything? Waste. 2 stars
5/02/99 Oz A sham of a remake and they should be shot for trying, Hitchcock is rolling in his grave 1 stars
4/24/99 gibb it wasen't that bad 3 stars
4/20/99 baps WHAT HAPPENED? See the original 2 stars
4/19/99 jimmy jam Not good 2 stars
4/04/99 Albert Ugh -- "Psycho," starring Peter Pan. 1 stars
3/20/99 Dee Dee That movie was toilet. 1 stars
3/12/99 Joe Schmoe Pretty bad for a remake of a classy movie. 1 stars
3/06/99 Mike Rotch Superfly's review sucks! The movie stunk and Norman was awful. 1 stars
3/05/99 Gary Stevens Is it because of my youth, or am I wrong in saying that this Psycho is just as good? 4 stars
2/25/99 Viral Messiah Worse than the classic. Like this one and you deserve a goddam beating. 1 stars
2/20/99 MR HOLLYWOOD!! Heche & Vaughn give the film a new light,at least Van Sant tried. 3 stars
2/18/99 Bishop Why was this necessary? Not as bad as people say though, Vauhgn's not bad, but not money. 3 stars
2/16/99 Uncle Roy I saw it to hear Norman beat off 1 stars
2/02/99 Jacques Strap Damn Van Sant. He directs crap. 1 stars
1/29/99 James E. Laczkowski There are words to describe my animosity towards this horrid trash!!! 1 stars
1/28/99 Whiplash Who cares about total-net dude? Nobody. This movie is bullshit! 1 stars
1/28/99 Brandi Gilbert sucked 1 stars
1/27/99 Kooky Sal Too bad total-net boy. You're now banned. 3 stars
1/25/99 Chad Touchette Too short of a movie, but it was awesome. 4 stars
1/23/99 MR HOLLYWOOD!! If you havent seen the original,watch this first,great to kill 2 hours with! 4 stars
1/22/99 TB I think they should change the name of this movie too.... "Vince Vaughn... You Devil, You!" 3 stars
1/19/99 Odd Pieman Did he jack off in the original or was that some special edition footage cut from the orig? 2 stars
1/14/99 jvt Van Sant's last 2 movies prove he can screw up even the best source material. 1 stars
1/12/99 Kevin Maynard The original was a classic. This wasn't as good, but still better than a Kevin Williamson. 4 stars
1/12/99 Doug Dogg Master. Bates finished jacking of in about 10 seconds...what a bitch 1 stars
1/11/99 Joe C. It was good but not as great as the original... but it is worth taking a look at. 4 stars
1/11/99 Doug Dogg i come to see anne hesche's muff, i get some dude's hairy ass, fuck you Van sant 1 stars
1/10/99 Heather It was borning 2 stars
1/06/99 E That's not Norman beating off, it's Van Sant. Asshole ruined Psycho. 1 stars
1/03/99 Fartass Worse than the classic version. Like this stupid remake and you oughta get a bitchslap! 1 stars
1/03/99 Negative Creep Hilarious film, if youve seen the original 3 stars
12/31/98 FRED groovy movie baby!!! I did Anne Heche. 5 stars
12/30/98 Bill Hartman A great tribute to Hitchcock! Van Sant does the classic justice. 4 stars
12/26/98 Jennifer Its been said before: never fuck with a classic. I did kinda like the end, though 3 stars
12/24/98 agsmith I kinda liked it.. Is that so wrong? Price I would pay to see this: $4.00 4 stars
12/24/98 Van It was SO great. If you're a Vince fan, you'll wanna see it!! 5 stars
12/24/98 Daddy Rich A replica that is just average 3 stars
12/21/98 Binky Much as you might hate the concept (as I do) on it's own this is a fair film. No classic. 3 stars
12/20/98 Mr Showbiz A worshipfully faithful replica. 4 stars
12/20/98 Tom Ripley Completely falls apart during the parlor scene, and never recovers. 1 stars
12/19/98 Jason Stein Stay WAYYYY the hell away from this piece of crap 1 stars
12/13/98 Zak Mc Graw Psycho '98 was great. It was almost as good as the original, and the original was classic 4 stars
12/13/98 kozmic fresh look , same old story. you won't miss anything 3 stars
12/12/98 Rodger Pille It's certainly not original at all, but it's still a great plot. 3 stars
12/12/98 nathan good 5 stars
12/12/98 Joseph Blow Ars Gratis Ars 5 stars
12/12/98 DrEvil If a filmmaker does not have an original vision, why bother? More wasted money. 1 stars
12/11/98 Mike Mc vaughn was not the right man for this..maybe edward norton? nice try, but no prize 3 stars
12/10/98 Marion Davies Hitchcock would throw up nonstop after seeing this bastardized ripoff of his classy flick! 2 stars
12/09/98 Lord Dennis Oh yeah, young people won't watch a black and white movie. Well, guess what? TOUGH!!! 1 stars
12/08/98 Jumbles Impressive re-creation. Ineffective re-make. 2 stars
12/06/98 Mr Showbiz No tacky rip-off, it's a worshipfully faithful replica of the original. 4 stars
12/06/98 Johny Go rent the original and aviod this piece of crap, please. It gives a good film a bad name. 1 stars
12/05/98 16 in. of swingin' meat and a bucket of balls Hitchcock must be rolling over in his grave. Watch the original and skip this turd film. 1 stars
10/29/98 zenball there's a reason the original is a classic. don't fuck with it 1 stars
8/28/98 Mister Whoopee Awful, awful, awful. This film will die very quickly. 2 stars
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  04-Dec-1998 (R)
  DVD: 24-Aug-2004



Directed by
  Gus Van Sant

Written by
  Jospeh Stefano

  Vince Vaughan
  Anne Heche
  William H. Macy
  Robert Forster
  Viggo Mortenson

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