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Happy 15th Anniversary of Gus Van Sant’s PSYCHO!

tn_psycho15thYes it’s true, 15 years ago ago today Universal unleashed the remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO from the director of DRUGSTORE COWBOY. I didn’t really pay attention but I’m sure everything turned out okay with that. And I see no reason why this new Village Voice piece of mine in which I write positive things about the movie should go over poorly.

I’m spending my evening planning a shot-for-shot-ish remake of the TV movie BATES MOTEL, hopefully with DJ Qualls in the Bud Cort role and with Vince Vaughn’s stunt double (or Jon Favreau) as Norman Bates. How are you celebrating?

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36 Responses to “Happy 15th Anniversary of Gus Van Sant’s PSYCHO!”

  1. Also happy 15th anniversary of Jay-Z’s 29th birthday.

    Has anyone ever seen 29 year old Jay-Z and Gus Van Sant’s PSYCHE-OH in the same room? I’m just sayin’.

  2. Holy shit. I think this might be my new favorite Vern piece.

  3. And next October, I’m going to watch each of them on consecutive nights. Even if it’s not as fun as watching Room 237 and The Shining the same way, it’ll at least be shorter.

  4. Great article!

    I haven´s seen Psycho remake, but a bit of trivia… You point out that Gus van Sant omits the cut to the shower head in the famous eye-tracking-shot. Hitchcock actually wanted it to be similar, but Leigh blinked her eyes in the take, so he had to cut away to the shower head.

  5. Van Sant’s MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO has long stretches that are similar shot-for-shot remaking of Orson Welles’ CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT. So he’d already done something similar, although, as Vern points out, since neither CHIMES nor PRIVATE IDAHO is that well known to the general horror-movie going public, it didn’t evoke much outrage.

  6. I really like the last line, “Experiments don’t always have to work to be worth doing.” Directors need to be allowed to fail. So long as they are failing while doing something different and unique rather than something pedestrian, then I’m okay with it.

  7. Great piece. I like this a lot too, and it’s time for another rewatch soon! One aspect you don’t touch upon that I feel is a characteristic unique to the remake, is Van Sant’s queer POV. Hitchcock, and his lustful framing of his blonde heroines, has been the subject of many a “male gaze” paper, but Van Sant is more interested in his male characters. Mortensen is introduced mooning his butt while taking in the view, IIRC, and the film includes at least a couple of trademark Van Sant shots, where the camera follows men from behind, while they’re walking and their butts are swaying in the wind.

  8. great piece! saw this in theaters and was majorly disappointed, but like fine wine, this insane style-exercise has gotten much better (or at least interesting/admirable/etc) with age. its pretty badass that the detective’s stair fall is weird and shitty just like in the original! (didn’t much mind the masturbation scene, either. pretty much implied in the original and why not?)

  9. Well, I gotta hand it to you Vern, I did NOT see this one coming.

  10. Excellent article, Vern. It makes me happy to know that you’re a semi-regular Village Voice contributor. It also makes me proud that we’re a sight that focuses on DTV sequels to movies starring wrestlers and yet we’ve got a multinational community here where pretty much everybody writes with eloquence, insight, and, most rarely of all, consideration for the idea of others, while the Village Voice, one of the snobbiest publications still in circulation, has a bunch of dullards who can’t even get halfway through an article they disagree with without responding with such bon mots as “#rubish”.

  11. Vince Vaughn IS Would-Be Thespian Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates as an AADD sufferer way off his meds, rather than a truly creepy/potentially dangerous fella in… Psycho Redux. When I first heard that Gus Van Sant was going to remake Psycho, I was semi-intrigued. Having seen the original movie and any number of Van Sant’s previous films, it seemed like a good fit.

    Then I found out he’d cast Vaughn as Norman Bates, and all hope flew out the window. Admittedly, Psycho isn’t all about Norman… it’s an ensemble movie, but one in which Norman Bates is the character who connects the dots of nearly every other character. Miscast him and you’ve got a big, if not insurmountable problem.

    Fast forward to 2013, and Vaughn having carved himself out a comfortable (albeit in recent decline) movie niche with his staccato, subdued smarmy persona. But back in 1998, this wasn’t readily apparent. Most movie audiences were familiar with him from Swingers and JP: The Lost World and not much else, so he wasn’t really assimilated just yet. Maybe Van Sant suspected he’d found a diamond in the rough, or thought casting against type would be a bold move… but I saw it as a miscue straightaway.

    Funny thing is, the following year Vaughn’s future twice buddy comedy partner Owen Wilson was cast as a serial killer in The Minus Man, with equally inadequate results.

    With the benefit of hindsight, and given the actors he had at his disposal, I wonder why Van Sant didn’t cast Viggo as Norman Bates (a little too old, maybe?). He’s malleable as an actor in a way Vaughn never was/will be, and certainly better suited to drama.

  12. I’ve never seen Psycho (remake) all the way through, but I have caught sections of it with Vaughn’s Norman Bates, and it is a little painful to watch. Vaughn really isn’t up to the challenge. But in his defense Anthony Perkins absolutely revolutionized how insanity was portrayed in film. Prior to his Norman Bates character, insanity was signified by wild eyes and obvious over acting. Perkins’s more subdued performance really changed that. It’s probably one of my favorite performances in film, and it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role, even though others have tried.

  13. And Mr. Majestyk, I had to go back to the Village Voice to see and believe that the [hashtag]rubbish comment was real. Sometimes I hate humanity.

  14. Anybody seen the CARRIEMAKE? I got free tickets, but I don’t know if I should bother since it means finding a babysitter etc. Like all right-thinking people I’m a big fan of the original.

  15. I feel like the praise for this movie is kinda bullshit. Directors need to able to fail as long as they are doing something unique, like a scene for scene remake? The article is well written but never addresses the films’ real problem, it’s boring.

  16. I will grant that this film is an interesting exercise, and the juxtaposition against the original does say something about the “intangibles” or little subtle elements (intrinsic to the film or having to do with historical context) that make a film great, whole greater than the parts, etc. Or, rather, it allows Vern to say some very interesting and insightful things derived from that juxtaposition. Also, this film’s existence doesn’t impact my evaluation or sentiment toward the original (probably my all-time favorite) one way or the other. Gus most assuredly did not rape my childhood.

    But, I gotta say, that is a hell of a lot of money and opportunity cost spent on such a mediocre and unsatisfying film. I guess that when $100Ms are being spent on Transformers, it helps to put this in perspective. But I still tend to view this as a misguided and failed vanity project that only unintentionally manages to serve Vern’s purpose of being an object lesson in the “it” factor that differentiates a truly visionary, original, and great film from a failed, largely paint by numbers imitation.

  17. “Funny thing is, the following year Vaughn’s future twice buddy comedy partner Owen Wilson was cast as a serial killer in The Minus Man, with equally inadequate results.”


    in all my years of interneting I’ve never seen someone reference that movie, I always figured I was the only one that’s ever seen it, it’s such a terrible but unintentionally funny movie, for years “is it sweet” was an in joke with my family

  18. I feel your pain, Griff (or rather, felt it but once). What a fucking trainwreck of a movie. All I remember about it was
    1.) Owen Wilson got all stone-faced right before he killed someone, and he did it… by using CHLOROFORM? What kind of bitchass serial killer uses that? Shit, even Dr. Lecter only used it as foreplay.
    2.) Janeane Garofalo as a cop with a drinking problem. There’s a reason you no longer see much of her in movies, and it’s on full display here.

    Also, considering the movie also starred Sheryl Crow and Dwight Yoakam, you’d THINK the producers would’ve had the good sense to pair them for a duet for the closing credits, but no.

    Amazon’s listing of the DVD tells me that Dennis Haysbert and the eternally reliable Brian Cox were in this as well, but fuckit if I can recall their roles, or that they were even in it.

  19. Well, fuck you all, I actually like THE MINUS MAN in all its awkward early 00’s indie glory. It’s an interesting serial killer flick in that it offers no explanation whatsoever for Wilson’s weird, incredibly passive killing spree. Seems like a nice, likable guy, doesn’t seem to really get off on killing, doesn’t have any kind of traumatic past that we know of. He just smiles, has good conversations with people, and kills them. It’s almost as experimental as Van Sant’s PSYCHO, really; what happens to the serial killer format if we remove almost everything scary about the killer?

  20. Mr. S— I respect your consistent acumen re. all things filmatistic, but I do not concur. A movie serial killer IMO should be similar to a Method actor, who asks the question “What is my motivation?”, and a serial killer movie worth its salt asks the question “What is this person’s motivation?”… and then eventually answers that question.

    No one kills repeatedly without a reason.

  21. Larry — that’s whats so great about MINUS. You assume there MUST be some reason, but the movie refuses to even give you a hint. You’ll never know why this affable young man goes around murdering everyone. I’m not saying it’s a great movie, but I like that it’s unique and I think the utter opaqueness of it’s main villain/protagonist makes it oddly unsettling.

  22. Man, also, I just got to thinking… Vern, where the fuck did you find that cake in the top image? Did you actually go out and commission an ice cream cake to commemorate the 15th PSYCHO REMAKE anniversary? I mean, that’s definitely Vaughn as Bates on that cake, right? And I’m seriously doubting even Van Sant is celebrating this anniversary with custom ice cream cake. I’m left with no other option to believe you have that cake sitting at your house right now.

  23. Mr. S— I’d like to think the Editor-In-Chief of The Village Voice had that cake custom-made, then delivered it to Vern with a note that read “OK, bud… you know what to do”.

  24. whoa, I can’t believe everyone is bashing ‘The Minus Man.’ I watched it many times in high school and actually revisited a few years ago to see if it was still good, and I liked it even more. As far as slow, gothic indies of the late 90s/early 2000s go, its much better than ‘Heavy,’ you have to admit. ‘Twin Falls’? Jury’s still out on that one.

  25. I don’t remember much about THE MINUS MAN (by “much” I mean “anything”) but I don’t recall disliking it either. I recall it as being a sorta interesting but not all that exciting also-ran from the days when there were still a couple angles on serial killers that hadn’t been explored to death yet.

  26. I loved minus man. The book was dope, too.

  27. THE MINUS MAN is one of those movies, that I always wanted to watch, but then didn’t. It had one of the most awful/brillant trailers ever, though.
    (Awful, because it tries to convince you that it’s an intellectual masterpiece before you even had the chance to see any footage of it, brillant because…just look)


  28. Yeah, I remember the trailer was supposed to be a cool/offbeat/viral idea, but I never really connected with it. The movie itself is more gloomy than terrifying, but it’s creepy, tragic, and sinister. It’s another take on the serial killer genre (kind of the opposite impulse of the more boobs, more gore, bigger body count approach), that does genuinely justify its existence and is a good film in its own right.

  29. Great piece Vern. You seriously need to GIVE UP YOUR DAY JOB and get paid large amounts of money to write. Publishers take note. Vern is the future of film writing.

  30. I agree, majestik/skani/etc. To me, though definitely about a serial killer, ‘Minus Man’ is more like something like Sling Blade, Twin Falls, etc etc etc. Even still, as a serial killer film, its just about as understated as it gets, with tons of ambiguity splattered all over the thing. I’d say its at least as good as another forgotten serial killer study, Felicia’s Journey, which I thought was fucking excellent.

  31. in all fairness to THE MINUS MAN, I haven’t seen it since like 2001 or so, maybe it’s better than I remember

  32. For any reason I only just realized that the guy on the cake in the photo at the beginning looks like Fatboy Slim.

  33. This week on Trailers From Hell, Ti West takes a look at the PSYCHO remake: http://trailersfromhell.com/psycho-1998/

    The description on the site (these are usually written by Joe Dante) links to your Village Voice piece!

  34. Hey, cool! Thanks for letting me know. I’m proud.

  35. You guys see Steven Soderbergh’s PSYCHO mash-up? Guess he sees some worth in constrasting the two films as well.


    Nice to see him just chilling out and doing whatever the fuck he wants, but for purely selfish reasons I hope he goes back to making actual films.

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