Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Gus Van Sant does a classy repro for those who prefer colour with their clean sheets and towel. There is nothing like Hitch's original, of course, which had the advantage of surprise. Now that everybody knows what's going to happen, it doesn't help that Van Sant is faithful to a fault.

The actors are as good, or even better, with one unexpected disappointment. Anne Heche is not a patch on Janet Leigh. It is vital that the audience feels sympathy towards the secretary who steals a wad of money from her boss in order to run away with her debt-infested lover, only to have pangs of remorse later and decide moments before taking a shower at the Bates Motel to give it back.

Copy picture

Heche looks plain and pale. She appears stupid and hardhearted. You don't care about her. Leigh was beautiful and sweet and desirable, her predicament somehow the fault of a generous nature, as if it was the weakness of her boyfriend that forced her to do something she would otherwise never have considered. Anthony Perkins' fascination with Leigh seemed understandable. The shock, when it came, in the white bathroom, was like being run over by a brick wall. The interest this time is purely technical. How does she defend herself? Does the blood go down the plughole like before? Why show so much? Freddy movies, Halloween sickos, Jason slashouts, even Brian de Palma, have done girl-in-shower scenes to death. Hitchcock's is the classic, because it was first and gave so little away. Van Sant elaborates, losing excitement, tension and fear. Perkins is synonymous with Norman Bates. The thought of anyone else in the role is as hard to imagine as George Clooney and Julia Roberts in the millennium version of Casablanca.

Vince Vaughn, to give him his due, makes no attempt at "doing Tony". Van Sant's film is set in 1998, although has the look of a Fifties pastiche because of its deliberate and careful staging. Vaughn is physically more threatening and emotionally as vulnerable. He plays with his hands and chews candy when nervous. He has the smile of young Brando and the charm of a butterfly collector. This man's schizophrenia is visible to the trained eye, where, with Perkins, it was worn as an accessory.

Viggo Mortensen (the lover) and Julianne Moore (the secretary's sister) are a vast improvement on John Gavin and Vera Miles. Mortensen has a blue collar authenticity, a rough-cut sex appeal that has nothing to do with matinee idolatry, and Moore looks like she's just walked off the set of "The Lost World: Jurassic Park", with big boots and no damned nonsense. Van Sant should never have made this film because he can't improve on the Master, but since he has and uses the wonderful Bernard Hermann score and Joseph Stephano script, he must be congratulated on remaining true in spirit, at least. He is here to praise Caesar, not to blame him. In remake heaven, where all clones meet, the only question is "Why?"

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
Share this with others on...
Psycho packshot
Colour, shot-for-shot remake of Hitchcock's classic.
Amazon link

Director: Gus Van Sant

Writer: Joseph Stefano, Robert Bloch

Starring: Vince Vaughn, Anne Heche, Julianne Moore, Viggo Mortensen, William H Macy, Robert Forster, Philip Baker Hall, Anne Haney, Chad Everett, Rance Howard, Rita Wilson

Year: 1998

Runtime: 110 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


Search database:

If you like this, try: