How do you possibly begin to remake a film like Psycho? A film that remains one of the most iconic and prised gems in the crown of Alfred Hitchcock’s filmography? A film that is revered as the genesis of the slasher-horror genre. A better question would be should you even begin to remake psycho, like so many other films, where a familiar brand name and scenario can mean big dollars for the studios, and a polarising entry for fans. In 1998, old nightmares were revisited as Gus Van Sant set out to answer whether the past can be remade, as he attempted to bring the 50s classic to the 90s, in Psycho.
When Marion Crane pockets $400,000 (or $700,000 in today’s money) from her work, to support a life with her boyfriend. Guilt and paranoia set in as she flees across California. Attempting to lie low, she checks into the secluded Bates Motel, meeting the charming but henpecked Norman, forever under the scornful gaze of his overbearing mother. When Marion’s sister Lila cannot get hold of her, the deep dark secrets of the motel are about to be revealed.
Those familiar with the 1960s original might notice the similarities in the plot breakdown. Narratively, there’s little difference between the 1960s original and the remake 38 years later. Director Gus Van Sant wanted to experiment by creating a shot-for-shot remake, hypothesising if a literal remake could have been done? Some kills are more visceral, owing to the relaxed standards and the increased bloodlust of today’s audiences, but a lot of the manner and scenes remain relatively unchanged, even if the viewer gets different interpretations from the original. Being shot on colour film, as opposed to the 50s black and white, affords the Psycho film some vibrancy, especially as the film leans into the zeitgeist of the late 90s atheistic. So no having to rely on chocolate sauce to get the right consistency of the blood.
Instead of focusing on the similarities, the film’s differences do shine in the casting. Taking over for Anthony Perkins is Vince Vaughn, who while being less disarming than the Perkins does feel a tad more realistic as a disturbed killer (the experience that will do wonders for him in the Freaky-Friday slasher Freaky). Anne Hesche and Julianne Moore do make for some convincing Crane sisters, along with William H. Macy as the fine gum-shoe, Arbogast. Viggo Mortensen, who has had prior experience in following the legacy of classic slashers also has a role here.
Whether it is a genuine attempt at a remake, or a statement saying how you can’t remake the past. Psycho earns its reputation as being an infamous yet misunderstood film. Its dedication to preserving as much as possible in its recreation, and showcasing just how compelling the story of Psycho is, even 40 years on. While Hollywood may eagerly persevere with its strategy, the sights and sounds of the Bates Motel remain captivating, beckoning to be rediscovered.
If you want more positive reviews delivered to the e-mail box of your choice, you can click on that little text bubble at the bottom of the screen. Do you agree or disagree? or have a suggestion for another pop-culture artefact that needs a positive light shone on it? Leave a comment in the comment box below! But remember to keep it positive!