March 29, 2017

Remakes: Psycho

My grandma watches mostly romance movies or the occasional action flick, so when she suggested we watch the Psycho remake because it was finally on cable (way back in 1999), I was taken aback. But, we'd both seen the original (and I'd seen all the sequels), so my grandma and I decided to watch Gus Van Sant's remake of Psycho... for 20 mins before she shut the TV off in anger.

The plot unfolds something like this: It's seriously a shot for shot remake of the original, so if you've seen the original, you know what's what. (If you've not seen the original, it's a horror masterpiece, go watch it right now!)

Why did they remake it?: Gus Van Sant has admitted this was mostly an experiment to see what would happen if you tried to remake a genuine classic without straying from the original.

The only reason to watch: This is the PERFECT illustration of why remakes should vary from the originals. No matter how much people scream "they weren't women in the original", remakes are the best when they're loving reinterpretations of their source material rather than tediously unimaginative reminders of them.

What Grandma thought: Grandma and I only watched as far as the scene were Vince Vaughn jerks off over Anne Heche taking a shower. To be clear, Grandma wasn't mad about the masturbation, she was furious that the subtlety of the original had been swapped out for hamfisted obviousness. So, even though Van Sant claims that his goal was to see what a "shot-for-shot" remake would look like, he also (though possibly unintentionally) illustrated why you can only make a shot-for-shot remake if you fully understand your source material. Hitchcock's Psycho makes us question what's really going on in Norman's mind through the end of the film, fucking with the audience's ability to trust what they're seeing and creating engaging internal conflict for the viewer. Van Sant lets us know that Norman is emotionally unstable from almost the first moment he's on screen, which removes all the conflict you feel watching the original and replaces that conflict with nothing. And that's exactly what you feel while watching this film: nothing.

Best use for this film: When you hear people arguing that something being remade is terrible solely because it differs from the book*, play, film or whatever source material, ask the person making that argument if the 1998 Psycho is their favorite ever remake; and then take warming evil pleasure in watching them squirm.

*I didn't even touch on how Psycho was a novel first. A trashy, sort of boring novel that the film totally deviates from...

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