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Psycho (remake)

tn_psychoremakeIn Gus Van Sant’s 1998 remake of PSYCHO they tried to recreate Hitchcock’s filmatism, they had Joseph Stefano only slightly re-word his old script, they re-recorded Bernard Herrman’s score and made it sound basically the same. So the success or failure of this version mostly falls to the one element Hitchcock claimed to not give two shits about: the actors.

That’s trouble though because it was easy to predict that nobody could withstand comparison to Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates. It’s interesting to see someone else try to put a different spin on it, but I doubt you could find anyone who prefers Vince Vaughn or even thinks he comes a close second. I’m not sure who the miraculous casting choice who would work as Norman even though he’s not Anthony Perkins would be, but Vaughn ain’t the guy.

mp_psychoremakeOn one hand he’s just so different. Physically he’s so much more imposing. Maybe not as handsome, but not as meek. It’s harder to buy him as this repressed mama’s boy. He doesn’t seem as afraid. And he looks more silly munching on candy.

On the other hand his interpretation isn’t so drastically different that you can think of him as a totally different take. He’s a little doofier, his nervous laughter is nerdier, he gives more blatantly evil looks on occasion. But he’s not a complete re-invention. So it’s easy to just think he’s doing it wrong.

But it’s fun to go down the line and compare all the performances. Anne Heche is okay as Marion Crane, but not as likable as Janet Leigh. I don’t think she really gets the mentality of it across – the desperation for a better life, the fear of what will happen to her now, the realization that she must give back the money if she doesn’t want to ruin her life. Viggo Mortensen (BOILING POINT) is great though as a little more redneck version of Marion’s boyfriend Sam Loomis. He’s the most natural in the cast. Julianne Moore (ASSASSINS) is fine as Lila, but typical of ’90s Moore performances, and kind of silly because Van Sant has her always wearing headphones like a sullen teen. James LeGros (PHANTASM II) does a good car salesman, James Remar (THE WARRIORS) perfectly imitates the scary, sunglass-wearing traffic cop, Philip Baker Hall (RUSH HOUR) makes a good small town sheriff. William H. Macy (SPARTAN) is fine as Arbogast (the P.I. looking for Marion) but I don’t like their decision to make him retro. Maybe it’s more the fedora than the performance, but his character keeps you planted in movies and nostalgia. Wouldn’t it be more useful, if you’re gonna remake this in 1998, to give it a gritty realism that nobody did in 1960? Like a Soderbergh deal, hire an actual private detective to play the part? I gotta say, my favorite performance in the remake is Robert Forster as the psychiatrist who explains everything at the end. He comes off as a seen-it-all professional patiently explaining this one to the laymen. He would’ve made a good Arbogast.

This has always been a controversial movie. By that I mean that pretty much everyone hates it, but I find myself defending it alot. I mean, it doesn’t really work as a straight-up movie for me, it’s more of a novelty or a stunt, but I think Van Sant’s motives have always been misunderstood. The idea of a supposed shot-for-shot remake is infuriating to people, they don’t understand what the point is. I think the point is to see what it would be like. PSYCHO is a great choice for this because it’s so simple and iconic, and almost everybody knows it – the story, the imagery, the music. It wouldn’t work as well if it was SPELLBOUND or FAMILY PLOT or something, because those aren’t as well known. Another one that would work would be RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, so luckily some kids did their own Van Sant deal with that one. In both cases you can’t just sit there and watch the movie with no knowledge of the original, you have to know the original to enjoy the re-creation. They’re not standalone movies even though they’re as exactly the same as their makers could muster.

Of course I’m wary of this cynical age of horror movie recycling, but I think it’s off the mark when people lump this in with the Platinum Dunes ones and shit like that. It’s just not the same thing. Let me rebut some of the arguments I hear all the time:

1. Van Sant did it for the money.

That’s ridiculous. If it was a cash grab wouldn’t he do something GOOD WILL HUNTING-esque and not a project that caused even non-nerds to go into a rage at the very idea of it? Van Sant had been trying to do this for a while, but Universal didn’t bite until he had a hit with GOOD WILL HUNTING. It was a pet project. Anyway, if it was supposed to be a moneymaker it failed. IMDb says it cost about $20 million to make and made about $21 million in theaters. It did just about exactly as well as TO DIE FOR.

2. Young people will watch this instead of the original.

Yeah, you think so? How’s that workin out? It’s been more than 10 years now. Have you ever met anybody who liked this and not the original? Or who first thinks of this one when you say “PSYCHO”? You can hold that against some of the other remakes, but not this one.

3. People just called it an “experiment” to justify it after the fact because it didn’t make a ton of money.

I always say that this is more of an art project than a straight up movie, a postmodern experiment that could only be done in this unlikely circumstance that there’s a guy who actually wants to do it at the same time that all the right people are naive enough to let him. Somehow that happened, and personally I don’t mind so much that it’s a failed experiment because I still think it was interesting to try. And somehow I don’t think too many people involved were fooling themselves that a (somewhat) shot-for-shot remake of an iconic movie hinging on a plot twist everybody knows done by the director of MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO would be a smash runaway hit. Anybody familiar with Van Sant’s filmography should have trouble believing he gives a shit about box office or mainstream success. Nothing he’s made before or since, from MALA NOCHE to MILK, hints otherwise. Except maybe that one with Sean Connery.

Anyway, watch the making-of featurette on the DVD, where William H. Macey is on set talking about how half the audience will be watching 2 movies at the same time because they’ll be comparing it to the original in their mind. This is the same featurette where screenwriter Joseph Stefano is interviewed by the gay porn director Bruce La Bruce. I’m pretty sure they didn’t think they were doing MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3-D.

4. The nerve of these pricks to think they can do better than Hitchcock!

But isn’t that kind of the whole silly point of this thing, that they know they can’t do it better so they try to do it the same? I don’t see how you can argue this isn’t reverent of Hitchcock. Van Sant even gave himself a director cameo where he’s being chewed out by Hitchcock’s director cameo.

But that brings me to what I think is the movie’s biggest flaw, if it isn’t the casting of Vaughn. I think Van Sant is actually not dedicated enough to the shot-for-shot concept. People always say they don’t get the point of a shot-for-shot remake, but I get it. What I don’t get is a mostly shot-for-shot remake. I’m sure when they actually went through with it it got boring to copy shot after shot, but I wish they’d been disciplined enough to stick to it. I’m not talking about tweaks like Norman jerking off while looking through the peephole – there are plenty of parts where they just didn’t stick to the original recipe. On the commentary Van Sant admits that they shot all of the shower scene the same but decided to change the way it was all edited together. There’s also those little flashes of clouds and shit during the murder scenes – I don’t know what that adds.

I’m down with the concept, but it seems to me Van Sant didn’t really think through exactly what he was going for, so it ended up inconsistent. For example, he wanted it to take place in ’98, so he let Stefano change some of the dated phrases and the amount of money that was stolen. But then he let his costumer give most of them kitschy retro clothes like in his other movies. (In fact on the commentary he says he only realized from watching an interview with her that she didn’t understand that he wanted it to take place in ’98.) I guess it’s fine for Loomis to be dressed a little like Cowboy Curtis, but I don’t think it makes sense for Norman to have a hip looking shirt. And the shower curtain! I just don’t buy that the Bates Motel gets its shower curtains from Urban Outfitters.

Then there are the intentionally fake looking process shots, like the driving scenes and Arbogast’s (SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER) birthday party (THAT WAS A DECOY THE NEXT ONE WILL BE THE REAL SPOILER) death. Like the rest of the movie (which was shot by Wong Kar Wai’s buddy Christopher Doyle) those shots look cool, but it seems to me that throwing in kitschy tributes to 1960 defeats the purpose of restaging it in a different era. Maybe I really don’t get it. I think I’m in the club but I’m not.

Reading comments on the movie I see people complaining about it not taking “talent” to do what Van Sant did. But I don’t see how that’s relevant. The point isn’t to show off how talented or not talented he is – it’s an exercise, a test. It asks a whole bunch of film nerd questions: How much of the power of a movie can be transferred over through the same script and staging? How does modernizing a classic affect our reaction to it? Is it possible to get involved in a new movie that you’ve basically seen before? Since a play can be revived can a movie? It doesn’t matter so much that the answer to some of those questions is no. The more important thing is that somebody set out to prove the answer. But if he’d been more exact in the re-creation the results would be more scientific.

One divergence from the original that I really loved is the end credits. Of course in ’60 they didn’t have a bunch of end credits, so there was nothing to copy. Van Sant pulls the camera up from the cars being removed from the swamp and shows us a whole long scene of the police crime scene clean up. By the end of the credits the officers have left and it just becomes a beautiful landscape, and it quietly holds that shot for a good 30 seconds after the credits end. (By the way, Van Sant thanks John Woo for loaning his kitchen knife.)

Whatever its many problems, I think PSYCHO remake does achieve its number one purpose, which is to share with you the bizarre sensation of watching PSYCHO re-enacted with a different cast. It’s almost the same, but with some changes, like Spanish DRACULA. On most remakes I have to try to get the original out of my head to enjoy it. With this one the comparison is the entire point. I think it’s a good experience for me once every ten years or so.

In fact, I honestly think it would be cool if somebody else tried this again. I think it could be done again and better. I haven’t really thought of a good cast though.  I tried to, but the best I could come up with is MUPPETS PSYCHO. Think how good Kermit would be as Norman! Miss Piggy would have to be Marion Crane so she could (SPOILER FOR MUPPETS PSYCHO) die early. And it makes sense that superficial bitch would take the money. Fozzy I think could be Arbogast but then he’d have the same hat thing going as William H. Macy, so how bout Fozzy plays Mother? I don’t know. I guess I’ll leave it up to the muppet people, they know their business in my opinion.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Monday, November 9th, 2009 at 3:18 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

90 Responses to “Psycho (remake)”

  1. To cash in on the success of the Muppets Psycho they could do a live action remake with David Schwimmer as Kermit.

  2. Wow. Holy shit, Vern, you and I totally agree about this crazy movie.

    Another great review. I especially think you’re onto something with the Muppets there, bud. And the birthday party spoiler made me laugh. Thanks.

  3. I don’t remember what other great idea you had a month or so ago that made me say, “Yes, I want to see that.”, but your Muppets Psycho idea is simply the best idea I’ve heard in a looong time. I don’t see it happening since the Psycho rights are probably with Universal and the Muppes are owned by DIsney, but a man can dream.
    No comment on remake as I haven’t seen it.

  4. Muppet Psycho needs the swedish chef and Animal too. They would be essential for the important swedish muppet-market… The chef could probably do the explaining-bit in the end, which would make the whole thing a little surreal. But I can’t figure out a good part for Animal, so that might sink the whole concept.

  5. “Except maybe that one with Sean Connery.”

    you’re the man now dog!

  6. One_Guy_from_Andromeda

    November 9th, 2009 at 5:56 am

    The problem i have with this thing are exactly these “not dedicated enough” moments, which are what i would call “Hitchcock can be improved here!” moments. If the concept is a shot for shot remake, why recut the shower scene? Then there’s the vertigo zoom on Vaughn in the showdown – it’s so self conscious, you get the feeling a film school student had the idea. “This dialogue scene is boring, there’s no way to improve it, we’ll do it just like Hitchcock… But this opening shot! YES! Let’s make it really continuous, without those hokey dissolves! Ha! Hitchcock improved!” – that’s the feeling i got from this thing. And that’s the reason why some other big shots where they really recreated the old school 60s way of doing it look so out of place in it. A shot for shot remake is retarded enough in my opinion, but at least it can be defended as a crazy experiment. But doing a shot for shot remake and then altering some to make them cooler? That just makes it a piece of unnecessary shit in my opinion…

  7. Yeah, like I said in the O.G. Psycho thread, Vaughn was a dealbreaker for me. Like Vern said, he wasn’t different enough from Perkins for me to see it as a new interpretation, but he wasn’t good enough for it to be an effective impersonation, either. They should have just gotten Henry Thomas back.

  8. To clarify, I don’t fault them for making the movie. It was an interesting experiment. But what I think it proves is that actors are more important than Hitchcock gave them credit for. He made dozens of movies, and the most famous and enjoyable of them are the ones with the best actors in them. I think Hitch knew this, and that’s why he hated actors. They stole his shine.

  9. Gonzo would have to be Norman Bates, Kermit would be Loomis and the movie would open with him and Piggy after some hot, Muppet on Muppet relations. I think that Michael Shannon guy could probaly do as decent new take on Norman Bates, he’s already carved out a niche for himself as being the go to guy if you want to have a crazy character in your ‘prestige’ movies. And holy shit, he’s in a Herzaog movie coming out sometime about a guy who murders his Mom! That settles it, when Gus Van Sant does a mostly shot-for-shot remake of this movie, he’s casting MIchael Shannon.

    I’m not sure what to make of this movie. When I first saw it I kind of assumed it waas one of those things Vern mentioned, and I was kind of insulted that they thought my generation was so fucking dense that we would rather watch a color version starring modern actors, that’s all we cared about. But having seen and read about it for a while now, I think I can appreciate the craziness of the experiment and respect it, at least on a, “there is nothing else like this anywhere ever” level. LIke the dodo, or the Massachusetts republican.

  10. I didn’t have a problem with the Vince Vaughn thing *before* I saw this film. I think it was because of CLAY PIGEONS, which made me believe that he could play a good psychopath. But, as we know, Norman isn’t a typical one of those. I realized while I was watching the remake that Norman has a genuine innocence that wasn’t captured with Vaughn. The masturbation scene only emphasized this. In the original, we only saw Norman’s eye when he was watching Marion, right? We don’t really know if he’s whacking off or not, but the fact that he’s mostly covered while peeping on Marion speaks to a sort of shame for the Tony Perkins Norman; seeing the Vince Vaughn Norman actually spanking his monkey took away that angle of characterization for me.

    I can’t believe I just wrote a post about Norman Bates pleasuring himself.

  11. Doktor Rock: Great idea on The Swedish Chef.

    Brendan: Totally agree on Gonzo and Michael Shannon. But they’ll probably just get Jackie Earle Haley.

    All: Shortly after it came out, there was actually a story that Van Sant wanted to remake it again in a punk rock setting with Viggo as Norman. Presumably, that would have been the next stage of the experiment. And in that regard, it’s not a bad idea.

    And remember when someone (Todd Lincoln) wanted to remake The Fly because he (Todd Lincoln) thought that the audience wanted to see The Fly fly? He (Todd Lincoln) wanted to make a movie to outdo the original (remake). Because apparently Cronenberg “forgot” to do that. Just putting it out there that that guy (Todd Lincoln) is probably an asshole.

  12. Totally agree with the Muppet suggestions. BTW I always thought the Simpsons movie should have been a rendering of Death of a Salesman.

  13. Muppets Psycho must be made. But, would it be based on the original movie, or on the Van Sant remake? Or on the Bloch novel? Or some combination thereof?

    Discuss!!

    (Note: they could probably shoot the thing with different muppets in different roles–like, six different versions, but some have Kermit as Norman, some have Gonzo, some have Animal. Maybe one has Anne Heche reprising her role as Marion (since there needs to be a live-action guest star in a major role somewhere.)

  14. Van Sant’s PUNK ROCK MUPPETS PSYCHO — THE MUSICAL!!

  15. If Miss Piggy is Marion, who’s going to be Lila? Another version of Miss Piggy? I just realized that there’s only one female muppet that I can think of. Everyone else is a dude. Weird.

  16. Whenever I give a back-handed remark about this one, my friend comes out and semi-defends it by reminding me: “Well Van Sant up and said it was more an experiment than anything.”

    To which I reply: “That’s nice. So he charged us ten dollars each and made a profit all so he could ‘experiment’. That’s like if I went to a local high-school science fair and they charged me to attend.”

  17. Michael Shannon! Great call, Brendan. Can’t wait for Herzog’s MY SON, MY SON, WHAT HAVE YE DONE

  18. Brendan, how could you forget Janice and the sexy, sexy Camilla?

  19. It’s nice to see someone else who appreciates Psycho 98 for what it is, rather than what it isn’t. I think in addition to all the points you made in your review, Vern, it’s also pretty clearly a commentary on the fad of remaking all the horror classics, so far every single one of which sucks compared to the original. By essentially “sweding” Psycho, rather than redoing it, he leaves the original masterpiece intact kind of within the new skin of the “cover version.”

    I saw Psycho 98 in the theater, being a huge Van Sant fan, and I loved it from day one. Not necessarily as a movie in and of itself, but as, as you say, an experiment; almost an Andy Warhol kind of variation on a theme. I hope he has the nerve to make another version. If, as you say, you can revive a play, or cover a song, why can’t you do the same thing with a movie? Of all the questions Psycho 98 asks, that’s the most interesting, and highlights the fact that its controversial reception was more an issue of convention than anything else.

  20. Oh and you forgot to put “Muppets” in your tag list.

  21. In a bold case of stunt casting, Animal would have to play Mother. Think about it! The Muppet who spends all his time flailing around and playing the drums would spend the entire movie as a corpse in a chair! And just think about Norman Kermit wearing a dead Animal mask.

  22. Nah, that’d waste Animal’s natural sense of timing and charisma.

  23. I think the world is ready for a wide range of Muppet horror remakes.

    The Muppet rock band could do TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. They even have their own van. Muppet Janis would be the Last Girl. Dr. Teeth? No so lucky. And Rolf the Dog as Franklin.

  24. Gonzo’s beloved Camilla is possessed by the devil, so Father Kermit and Father Fonzie have to overcome their own crises of faith and beat the devil. THE FELTORCIST.

  25. The Muppet Chainsaw Massacre would work if one of the critics up in the balcony was the Cook, Beeker was the Hitchhiker, and that big-ass monster Muppet who never gets a name was Leatherface.

    If they remake the remake then obviously Sam the Eagle is the Sheriff. Not that I condone such a thing.

  26. Also, Janis’ boyfriend is Gopher, while Miss Piggy and Kermit are the doomed other couple. I think we all want to see Piggy’s junk-in-the-trunk in those iconic red hot pants.

    And I changed my mind: That crazy guy who throws fish boomerangs should be the Hitchhiker.

    But back to Muppet Psycho, are we really not gonna have Dr. Bunsen Honeydew as the psychiatrist at the end? Seems like the part he was born to play.

  27. Actually, that big-ass monster Muppet is too on the nose for Leatherface. Give it to Fozzy. We need to have a little sympathy for Bubba, and Fozzy brings that.

    It’ll be fucked up when he wears Kermit’s face.

  28. Can we seriously make these Muppet remakes happen guys? Can they also be shot for shot? Vern, you need to exercise your Guillermo Del Toro connection here or something. A series like this would say more about the current state of remakes than Van Sant said with his Psycho remake. How about MUPPETDROME with Kermit or MUPPET RINGERS with Bert and Ernie, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (DAY OF THE MUPPET) with Miss Piggy as the titular Muppet, or even MUPPET HOLOCAUST?

  29. Or MUPPET FEROX so we can see Gonzo get his package lopped off? (I bet it curves like his nose.)

  30. Gonzo can also be the Muppet in the tub in I SPIT ON MISS PIGGY (DAY OF THE MUPPET).

  31. Actually, you could make Kermit the protagonist in I SPIT ON MISS PIGGY. A rape/revenge picture with Kermit as the rapee and Miss Piggy as the rapist. You know it would go down that way in real life.

  32. It would be difficult for Kermit to be a rapist, having no genitals and all.

  33. Muppet rape seems like it would mostly consist of vicious fabric tearing and stuffing pulling.

  34. Mr. Majestyk: You can have it both ways quite nicely – Big Nameless Monster for scary Leatherface in the original and clumsy, sexually confused Fozzy for Leatherface in the sequel.

    Now which Muppet has the chops to say, “Leatherface, you bitch hog, look what you did to my Sonny Bono wig.”

    Floyd as L.G. McPeters.

    And that awesome song with the singing cows has to be in there somewhere:
    “doo doo doo doo doo mana mana doo doo doo doo.”

  35. Muppet Candyman with Oscar the grouch.
    Muppet The Thing with everybody turning into Animal.

  36. Night of the Living Muppets, with Kermit and Piggy as the couple in the basement. Honeydew and his assistant are the ones on the news trying to explain the Venus probe.

    Dawn of the Dead has Gonzo and his chickens taking over the mall with Ken Foree (there is no replacing Ken Foree) only to be waylaid by that band.

    Day of the Dead has Sam the Eagle running the military base with an iron fist.

  37. The great thing about Muppet Candyman is that it already is almost a Sesame Street episode. Virginia Madsen’s character would be played by the female Elmo. Her boyfriend would be Elmo, I guess and Snuffalupagus would fill in for Vanessa Williams.

  38. Vern, you you ever seen Funny Games and its shot for shot American remake? That’s a case of a filmmaker changing literally almost nothing except for the actors between two versions. They wear the same clothes, have the same make-up effects, exact same script, the same location. I think there is one shot that is staged (slightly) different and maybe the make/model of the family’s sedan is changed. It’s very, very weird (especially because both versions work equally well), especially if you are very familiar with the first version…

  39. You guys really need to see Meet the Feebles.

  40. Meet the Feebles is great. It’s one of the few Peter Jackson movies I really like. So of coarse every nerd I meet says Feebles is one of the worst things ever. Movie, especially the finale, cracks me up every time.

  41. Trevor: Didn’t you notice you were sitting on his face!
    Madame Udder: Well, it was a bit uncomfortable but I thought it was my hemorrhoids.

  42. Isn’t that the one with a musical number called “Sodomy?” Yeah, I need to watch that.

  43. I really think Van Sant made this in the hopes that it would prove to everyone, once and for all, that you can’t recapture what made a classic great just by recreating elements of it. Even “fixing” what you think is wrong with it (in this case, better actors in the second half) simply won’t be able to top that special magic which occurs when the right artists approach the right material at the right time.

    I think Van Sant is basically saying, ‘even if Hitch had been the one making this film in ’98, it wouldn’t have been a classic’ — forget the fact that it’s a remake, Van Sant isn’t really second-guessing any of Hitch’s moves and in fact generally offers better actors and acting (except Perkins, of course). But guess what, it still doesn’t work all that well, even if you can forget about the original. The greatness of the film is in the details that you just can’t quite recreate as much as it’s in the big things you can analyze and discuss. And, of course, the time, too. As much as I love PSYCHO (original) I don’t doubt at all that if it were released today, in this age of the blase serial killer, that no one would be much interested in it, except for its unusual story structure. It can’t have the same visceral punch that it did at the time since we’ve just seen so much worse since then.

    I think that’s Van Sant’s point…. by laying everything out virtually the same, he asks us to analyze why his remake is no one’s idea of a classic, but the original, from which it has only small cosmetic differences, is so highly regarded. It might have been a better point if the original didn’t have th classic performance by Perkins which anchors the movie, but its still fundamentally a solid argument.

  44. GRIM GRINNING CHRIS

    November 9th, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    Hey Majestyk. He actually DOES have a name. It’s Sweetums.

  45. Subtlety I think you’re right, but doesn’t that kind of fall into the “Uh, and?” category of an artistic stunt pulled to prove something everybody already figured out? Sort of like with Natural Born Killers, or Domino, you have filmmakers trying to make prophetic, subversive statements about the way media intrudes and impacts daily lives, unaware that everybody kind of knows that already.

    It’s not that Van Sant is wrong about that, it’s just that every film lover, the only people that would care about this stuff, already knows and agrees with that. He’s preaching to the choir, and spending 20 million dollars on it.

  46. Or even if that’s not something he thought about when he made it it’s still something we can think about when we watch it.

  47. Damn, Grim Grinning Chris beat me. I was going to come in and show of my Muppet knowledge. Oh well.

  48. caruso_stalker217

    November 9th, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    Damn, I was beaten by TWO people for the Sweetums shit. That’s like coming in third place in a… really lame contest.

  49. If Van Sant had to remake PSYCHO with one of the COUPLES RETREAT actors, it probably should’ve been Jason Bateman.

  50. But see, when you cover a song you don’t do it note-for-note, beat-for-beat, with the same vocal phrasing and instrumentation and tempo as the original. Likewise when you do a new production of a play. This is something else, like re-painting a painting with all the same brushstrokes, or taking a photo of a photo.

    I agree that it’s funny Van Sant tricked the studio into funding his artistic experiment, and that fact that it exists is interesting, academically speaking. But it isn’t a real movie and I can’t imaging watching it again.

    Also, if they were gonna keep the dialogue exactly (or 98 per cent) the same, they should have made it a period film. I bet that’s why Viggo did what he did — he realized that 1960 dialogue coming out of the mouths of 1998 people makes them sound clueless and backwards, so he played Sam that way. That’s why he comes off natural. He’s smart, that Viggo.

    A real experiment would be showing this to some 15-year-olds who have never heard of Psycho and watching their reactions. They’d know something was off, but they wouldn’t know what. Or maybe they’d just think people talked like that in the innocent days of 1998. (Do you suppose there are kids out there who think Happy Days was filmed in the Fifties?)

    Also, Animal should play the shrink at the end, since everyone hates that dialogue anyway. He’d be going “RAGH, RAGH, RAAAGGGGHHHH!” and the other characters would just look at him seriously and nod.

    One last thing: the dude from Will and Grace is a Tony Perkins look-and-soundalike. Not the Jerry Lewis guy, the main guy. Am I the only one who thinks so?

  51. Before anyone asks, I was strapped to the bed in four-point restraints and the head nurse on the ward LOVED that show. Okay? So maybe it was the thorazine that made Will remind me of Norman, I’m willing to consider that.

  52. I saw A CHRISTMAS CAROL and I’m thinking maybe the next PSYCHO remake should be done with motion capture. This time it could be shot-for-shot and they could even have Vince Vaughn as Bates but looking like Anthony Perkins. Or Tom Hanks could play all the characters.

  53. A better vehicle for the muppet band would be Muppet Devil’s Rejects. Dr Teeth would fill in for Sid Haig, Rowlf would be Tiny, the girl muppet would be Baby and Animal would play Otis, just because it would be great to watch him bicker about ice cream. “GRAAAAH! HWOOAOAOA! RRRRRRRRR!” And who doesn’t want to see a sadistic Sheriff Gonzo torturing their mom?
    Muppet Aliens starring Miss Piggy and one of those aliens who go “Yep. Yep. Yepyepyepyep. Yepyep.” Sam the Eagle would obviously be Bishop
    Muppet fight club with Bert and Ernie.
    And as long as I’m moving away from horror, imagine the potential of Muppet Being John Malkovich or Muppet Adaptation.

  54. What if Rolf the dog got bit by a bat and went CUJO on everybody?

  55. Muppet Alien: that’s priceless. I’m almost a bit grossed out at the thought of bloody shrieking chickens popping out of some Muppet’s guts. The wrecked spaceship that they find at the beginning could be the Pigs in Space ship.

    I was going to suggest a Muppet BLAIR WITCH, but those Trailervision guys did that Jar Jar Binks version ages ago; it’s probably the last word on the subject.

  56. No, Vern I think Zemekis should keep uselessly retelling centuries old stories using technology that sucks every drop of warmth and soul out of them. For my money, he should make the Little Match Girl next, but add in an hour of plot where the Little Match Girl is chased around by demons that entered through the dimensional rift she opened when she lights matches, for she is THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL OF POWER. Rated PG-13, Starring Tom Hanks, Christmas 2011

  57. Guy Smiley IS…Norman Bates.

    Also, to imagine that swivel-chair reveal of Mother with either Statler or Beaker sitting there sends me into shitstorms of laughter every time.

  58. I also heard a rumour that when Ebert asked Van Sant why he would do this, Van Sant said it was so no-one else could remake it. So he may have saved us a platinum dunes Psycho.

  59. Platinum Dunes remake would have been more fun hate

  60. So it seems like everyone is pretty much in agreement that PSYCHO ’98 is not so much a remake as a kind of avant-garde experiment on the way the fundamental elements of a film’s construction and the intangible elements of detail, context, and performance inform each other and either succeed or fail to create something of lasting worth.

    While I can understand why some folks would say, “but why didn’t he just write the above paragraph instead of wasting 20 million on a film” I think it offers an absolutely unique way to experience and consider these questions, provided you’re in the mood to sit and watch a plot entirely to consider the questions about cinema that it poses (which, admittedly, is not all that often, even in my case). Like most avant-garde films I’ve seen, I’m glad to have seen it and thought about it, without particularly wishing to revisit it or remembering the experience with much fondness. Glad it’s out there, though — way to go getting down with your weirdo self, Gus. But stay away from NORTH BY NORTHWEST, that thing’s a little tedious even as it is.

  61. Vern – Seriously man, where were you when this thing came out? If I’d read this back in 98 I would have thought it was the best movie of the year. Brilliant analysis. If you like this I’d love to hear your ideas on Godard.

    P.S. Just read your review of Made in U.S.A. after checking out the recent Criterion release. Fucking hilarious. “A movie that people would say they found interesting, but not in the way that they were interested while watching it.” (drunken paraphrase)

  62. guess i’m a little late to this thread, but i just wanted to say…

    i seriously can’t stop laughing at swedish chef as the psychologist. amazing!

  63. Loudabagel: Being Green.

    Kermit the Frog has a portal into his head that lets everyone know whether it really is easy being green. It isn’t, even if you are the world’s most beloved frog. Everyone comes to you with your problems…it’s more It’s a Wonderful Life than Charlie Kaufman in tone but does retain John Malkovich as himself in the Orson Bean role. No mention of what happened to Craig, Lotte, Maxine, Emily, or Charlie Sheen. Floris and the monkey are back, though.

  64. you guys and your muppets spin-offs are crazy. whats next? muppets in space?

  65. GONZO IS NOT AN ALIEN! LET’S GET ONE THING STRAIGHT! HE HAS NO ORIGINS, THERE IS NO REASON FOR HIM BEING THE WAY HE IS! FUCK ANYONE WHO TRIES TO SAY DIFFERENTLY! FUCK THEM!

    I kid. I kid. But seriously, Gonzo isn’t a fucking alien.

  66. Obviously. Everyone knows that aliens probe cows, not chickens.

    He’s just a weirdo. End of story.

  67. Why is he a weirdo for hanging around with chickens?

    Just like another funny nose celebrity in Michael Jackson, I think you guys are giving Gonzo a hard time over innuendos and…

    well then again, he has a dick for a nose.

  68. NORTH BY NORTHWEST is boring? And no one even took the bait.

    Just you wait ’til Glen Kenny finds out.

  69. No. Not a ‘weirdo.’ Gonzo is a Weirdo.

    But only on Muppet Babies. (The wood Weirdos freaked me out. They had a song. The reason you knock on wood is to keep them at bay.)

    In the films, i.e. reality, Gonzo is designated a ‘Whatever.’

    That scene in Muppets From Space where all the muppets have their family photos up on the wall but Gonzo’s photo is just a fuzzy long-shot of him alone on a beach? That shit touches me.

    Deeply.

  70. That is a touching moment. But the movie itself still gives me the urge to punch a baby in the face. Maybe I should get that checked out.

  71. Regarding the review: When they do a play, they totally stage it differently, they don’t do it exactly with the same staging as the theater company in Ohio did. So I would say that an interesting remake of Psycho would have been to use the same general set ideas and script, and then restage it with more modern film techniques. Shooting it exactly like the original is boring and useless, as they proved in their failed experiment.

    Also, Vaughn is awful. AWFUL in this movie. And i like him. But his performance is a bunch of showy, fake actorly ticks. I never buy him as the character for a second. I think he could have done a good job, but he needed to do the character differently. There’s not a second in Anthony Perkin’s performance that seems fake, even though it’s not subtle either. But Perkins is committed to the character, and Vaughn seems to be thinking about craft services and maybe the football game.

  72. Seeing as it’s Sesame Streets 40th birthday this year, I think they should be in with a shout for the remake. Grover would make a great Bates…he is the one muppet we don’t really know, maybe because of all his alter egos. And Big Bird would be a great canditate for the gettin stabbed up in the shower. Although I would rather see Maria getting her kit off…

  73. Hold on, Big Bird is a girl? How can you tell?

  74. In an attempt to figure out exactly what Gonzo is, I asked a few friends. The best response I got was: “some kind of buzzard rat.”

    Another friend, who put way too much research into her response, replied: “In THE GREAT MUPPET CAPER, Gonzo is shipped to England in a crate labeled “Whatever”.”

  75. You know who would be great as Norman Bates? Fuckin’ Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I believe he was a baby when this got made, but still. Maybe Gus Van Sant could squeeze out a Psycho-clone every couple of years.

  76. i first saw Vanessa Williams on the Miss USA pageant, she was so beautiful in the old days;*,

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  80. By this point, the current generation of spambots must be being programmed by the earlier generations, which is how you get such marvelously mathematical manglings of the artist formerly known as the English language. No human could come up with this stuff.

  81. Hmmm, this half-gibberish is indeed difficult to emulate, and I admit this even though I am something of a linguistic expert.  I suspect that, if this is not merely the ramblings of a rash of rogue spambots, a collision between some amateur ESLers and a rough online auto-translator is to blame.  

  82. what just happened here? is there rogue code out there reading through Vern’s old reviews?

  83. dieselboy – Yeah Vern’s old reviews are the new White Album, Sgt. Pepper, Abbey Road, or whatever the fuck albums it was that had “clues” that Paul was Dead.

  84. Rogue code? Are we talking Skynet?

  85. nrev deirub i.

  86. I thank for you to imbibe your wordings in future episodes. Please for me to accept your updates with good anticipation. Way to effort, future readings is my essential.

  87. This movie sucks. It is an experiment and it fails. It fails hardcore. Van Sant is good at making failed experiments. I haven’t seen one Van Sant movie I liked. I hate Psycho, Elephant, and Last Days. The guy is a hack, pure and simple.

    I just watched his remake of Psycho like yesterday. I knew I was gonna hate it, I will freely admit that. First of all, it’s not a shot-by-shot remake. As Vern stated, it’s a very half-assed movie. There are cuts where there weren’t in the original, and then there are cuts eliminated from the movie also, like in the scene in The Parlor. We see the camera move into its next position where normally there was a cut. Why? What the fuck was that for?

    Everything Van Sant has added is a slap in the face to Hitchcock. Not the color choices, I mean the stuff that he added. The shot of clouds going by in the shower scene, the masturbation behind the peephole, the shot of a blindfolded half-naked woman and a cow in the middle of the road in Arbogast’s death scene, “Let me get my Walkman,” and putting live birds in the damn Fruit Cellar. Oh yeah and the porno collection in Norman’s room.

    I hate this movie. I hate Gus Van Sant. I hope he never makes another movie. He fucking sucks.

  88. Okay, but you shouldn’t call him a hack. A hack is a crappy for-hire director with no voice of his own. You could say that about two of Van Sant’s movies tops. I don’t like all his movies but one thing I do admire about him is that he doesn’t give a fuck what makes money or what people think. He’s spent most of his career working out of Oregon, completely independent, and hanging out with William S. Burroughs. He’s always been a very personal director and because of who he is he put gay themes in his movies long before it was very accepted, if you would even consider it to be accepted now.

    And I would definitely vouch for DRUGSTORE COWBOY and MILK. I’d have to watch MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO and TO DIE FOR again to be sure but I remember those being pretty good too. Also that one Chili Pepper video where they’re jumping around in the desert painted silver.

  89. Vern is too modest or too self-conscious about having borrowed from himself here, but his new Village Voice piece is worth a read. Damn fine article.

    It’s kind of a remake of his PSYCHO REMAKE review, an almost shot-for-shot update that re-casts/re-formats/expands some of his old words into some new words that are a little weirder, more expansively deliberately artsy, & have more blood & masturbation in my opinion.
    Also there are cell phones and internets now.

    I don’t know, man; kids will probably always remember the 2009 Vern review of PSYCHO REMAKE long after they disregard & forget the 2013 Vern rereview of PSYCHO REMAKE, even if the newer one is in more colors. Time will tell.

    I really don’t know that Hitchcock’s PSYCHO is older than Van Sant’s PSYCHO.

  90. Jareth Cutestory

    March 2nd, 2014 at 12:10 am

    Looks like Soderbergh had some fun mashing up PSYCHOs. It gets really trippy in places where he superimposes footage from one film onto the other:

    http://extension765.com/sdr/15-psychos

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