BEST AND WORST REMAKES: WORST #10 – PSYCHO
It’s a disastrous experiment, but I guess someone had to try it. PSYCHO (1998) is about as close to a shot-for-shot remake of the original as anyone’s ever going to get. There are additions to modernize it (Lila Crane is a more prickly character who can’t go anywhere without her walkman; Norman Bates likes to furiously masturbate while watching women undress; shots of lightning and women in bondage are instrumental to Norman’s murder orgies) but for the overwhelming majority of the picture it’s exactly the same, down to the camera angles.
For me, the film fails beyond reproach because PSYCHO is a product of its time. The world had changed immeasurably since 1960. The script’s structure, dialogue, and movement are completely anachronistic if you place it in a post SILENCE OF THE LAMBS/TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE world. What shock does dressing like your dead mom have when we’ve become accustomed to villains dressing in their victims’ skins?
Hitchcock’s PSYCHO is a masterpiece in its lighting and mood, its music and unraveling layers. It crossed barriers in a film no one thought of before. Subsequent horror filmmakers grabbed that ball and ran like hell with it. Nothing like it had been dumped on a mass audience before. Hitchcock’s involvement with such a grubby little tale could be viewed the same way if Steven Spielberg had signed on to direct SAW or HOSTEL in the early ‘00s.
If anything, PSYCHO 1998 proves scripts, actors, camera angles, editing, music, and sound are just tools for a movie. The mark of a really great movie is the soul that moves between the frames of it. And unfortunately, Van Sant was able to capture everything in the photograph but that.