By: JORDAN RAE LUCAS
Gus Van Sant’s 1998 remake of “Psycho” could have been an interesting experiment.
As someone who has a great love of film and the craft of filmmaking, I was excited to learn as I watched it that this remake was a shot-by-shot, line-by-line remake of the original. The idea of taking one of the most revered films of all time and trying to capture that same magic with modern techniques is a very interesting one.
Unfortunately, it just didn’t work. While Van Sant was able to match Hitchcock’s filming style fairly well, the film fell short in every other aspect.
While watching the film, I found myself utterly confused by the time period. The title cards that open the film, telling us we are in Phoenix, Arizona, just like the original, say that the year is 1998. The panorama shots of the city and the cars driven in the film confirm this timeline and yet Marion, the main character, is still dressed like it is the 1960s.
The costuming is a minor nitpick compared to the curious casting choices made for the film. Viggo Mortensen plays the film’s hero, Sam Loomis. I honestly have to wonder if Peter Jackson saw this movie before casting Mortensen in “Fellowship of the Ring.”
(Mom, before you get angry with me, I love Viggo but he is objectively terrible in “Psycho.)
Despite playing a character from California, Mortensen decided Loomis should speak with a Texan drawl. Considering the character wore a cowboy hat, maybe this was at Van Sant’s request. Even if it weren’t for the accent, he plays the character as passive and almost oblivious at times where Loomis was trying to be strong and calm in the original.
Again, this is nothing compared to the blasphemy that is casting Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates. Vaughn is known for his sophomoric, comedic roles and perhaps this film was his way of trying to show range. This was the wrong role to take to test his dramatic abilities.
Norman is an unassuming, pathetic young man without a friend in the world besides his mother. This pitiful nature is how he gains Marion’s trust in the original. Vaughn, however, never seems innocent or naïve.
Where Anthony Perkins was bashful and almost incapable of making eye contact in the original, Vaughn is never without a mischievous glint in his eye. He always seems like he has some private joke and might start laughing at any moment.
The original film was acted in such a way that it would be believable that Norman had some kind of multiple personality disorder. Perkins made the audience believe that Norman honestly didn’t know he was a murderer. Vaughn confesses with every smirk and shift of his eyes.
Comparing the scenes where Norman is cleaning up Marion’s cabin after “Mother” stabbed her to death, in the original Norman seems like a distraught and fearful son. In the remake, it is painfully obvious that Norman has disposed of bodies before.
Vaughn gives away the entire film, ruining the suspense and mystery that made the original so successful.
Hitchcock’s original film was and is the gold standard of suspenseful filmmaking. Van Sant’s remake made a mockery of that legacy while trying to pay respect.
Voting is open for week three: Modern Horror!
The Babadook (2014)
The Houses October Built (2014)
The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)
Crimson Peak (2015)