Reviewed by: Brian Nigro
The new “Psycho” was not screened for critics ahead of time—not because Universal thought it was terrible and it would get terrible reviews, however, but because the original wasn’t screened for critics, either. Nonetheless, the new version came in at #2 at the box office, which indicates to at least this viewer a target audience of (a.) die-hard fans of Hitchcock films, (b.) renewed fans of the original, or (c.), the most likely scenario, teenagers who dislike black and white and couldn’t possibly like a horror movie with no blood and minimal violence. The new version is so calculated, so admittely scene-for-scene that there’s no room for audience curiosity and no room for director’s exploration.
The cast is problematic. Vince Vaugh is no Norman Bates (he already played a scarier psychotic in “Clay Pigeons”, earlier this year, and I’ll always remember that laugh from that movie). Anne Heche is no Janet Leigh, particularly when her hair is cut so short. Viggo Mortenson already ripped off a Hitchock character as Gwyneth Paltrow’s beau. And, the fine actress Julianne Moore is terribly underwritten as Marion’s sister, not to mention misplaced with her backpack and walkman headphones—I don’t remember the sister being so underwritten in the original.
The concept behind the new “Psycho” is a good one—remake a movie from the original script. There are plenty of movies that deserve such treatment that instead got a reworking with profanity and nudity or with revised character that bear little resemblence to their original counterparts.
A strong warning for Christian audiences: While the new “Psycho” is filmed scene for scene from the original screenplay, director Gus Van Sant incorporates nudity, some sexual content, and “red” blood (as opposed to the chocolate syrup of Hitchock’s black and white) that doesn’t really enhance the plot. The 1960 version has no profanity or conspicuous nudity and, as such, is less deserving of an “R” rating.
Bottom line: For Hitchcock fans only, not for casual moviegoers.
Year of Release—1998