Psycho (1998) review

A young female embezzeler arrives at the Bates Motel which has terrible secrets of its own

The 1960 Hitchcock film Psycho is renowned for being one of the best horror films of all time. It’s a truly unique entry into cinema that stands out especially when compared to the dull remakes we’re bombarded with these days. However, remakes of films often times get passed off as shit before they’re even given a chance, purely based on the loyalty of the audience to the original. The bigger the fanbase, the more the remake gets torn apart. Which means that 1998’s Psycho had no chance in hell of getting very many good reviews. Often times any changes or artistic liberties that the director takes in these movies are reprimanded by hundreds of screaming fanboys saying that he/she pissed all over the original. We don’t like things different, but isn’t that the point of a remake? To offer a new perspective or different version of a classic story and its characters. Luckily/Unluckily 1998’s Psycho takes very few liberties, mainly because it’s a shot for shot, line for line remake, but without the tension, power, or style of the original. It’s a fascinating example that serves as a martyr for directors who like to shake things up in remakes.

Psycho (1998) and Psycho (1960) share 90% of their shots, 90% of their writing and about 30% of their quality. To see why the copy and paste format doesn’t work, one merely needs to watch about 30 seconds past the identical opening credits. The film steals the Re-animator music, I mean reuses the old Psycho score and opens on a beautiful helicopter shot of Pheonix, Arizona. What’s not beautiful is the awkward feeling you get looking at 1990s Pheonix, and more specifically a 1990s movie, while listening to the overdramatic 60s score. The entire movie mashes together 60s and 90s filmmaking, but instead of creating a retro experience creates an awkward clusterfuck. You can’t use a 90s camera and use 60s cinematography. Sure it works fine a good chunk of the time, but Hitchcock’s more iconic and stylistic shots are so foreign in 90s cinema that it’s hard to look at. It’s not helped by the gaudy lighting, which is far too bright and glowy, not using shadows at all. There should be some forgiveness since this is filmed in color and even in the 90s lighting specialists who knew how to light Black and White style were rare, however this film doesn’t even try, instead going for an overly contrasted light scale that doesn’t end up creating dark shadows, but just creates bathrooms that look like the gateway to heaven.

Another of the major 60s/90s conflicts that dominate this movie involves the acting. The dialogue is almost entirely copied from the original, with only a few 90s twists to replace the 60s would-be-anachronisms. The actors struggle monumentally with this dialogue, often times delivering flat performances. It’s clear the director is trying to go for the 60s acting style, but none of these actors were trained that way and can’t pull it off. What we’re left with is a weird mix of hamming to the camera and bland performances. There is also a lot of miscasting in this movie, but the most blatant of them is Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates. Vince Vaughn is not the guy for this role. He’s a funny, outgoing guy and completely without any of the neuroses that Anthony Perkins had and brought to the role. He isn’t even physically built for the character, being far too bulky. When Norman showed up in the original he completely stole the movie and it wasn’t until he left the screen that the audience realized that the whole stealing plot was a thing. Vaughn has none of this power, instead leaving you bored and confused by what he’s trying to do. Instead of portraying Norman Bates he’s portraying Anthony Perkins portraying Norman Bates, but to be fair everyone in this movie copies their predecessor and all of them fail miserably.

There’s not much left to say about this film, mainly because it doesn’t have much to it. I’ve been harsher on this movie then others because it’s almost completely void of creativity. Sure it has its own moments, but everything it adds is superfluous garbage, failing to bring anything to the movie. The last thing I needed was to hear Vince Vaughn jerk off and I most certainly did not need to have random artistic images thrown at my face, especially if Hitchcock didn’t think it pertinent. It’s not worth anyone’s time. Anyone who has seen Psycho (1960) has already seen this movie and anyone who hasn’t would be a thousand times better off watching the original since this one can only taint your enjoyment of that.

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2 thoughts on “Psycho (1998) review

  1. Very good review. Thanks.
    I had almost the same experience, except that I had to stop watching after 50 minutes, just after the murder in the shower.
    It was just too painful to see such masterpiece being mistreated or misinterpreted.
    I think the whole idea of looking through the hole, is to see his attraction and excitement for a girl he can never have. Not to see a guy jerking it of, because he is horny. I think, it is Normans peekhole to the real world, that he never can be a part of. A way of showing he is a psyco.
    On top of that I also missed Anthony Perkins too much.

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