Eric’s Guide Through the “Psycho” Series
2.) Psycho IV: The Beginning
I give Mick Garris a lot of crap and in interviews he seems like such a nice guy so I feel bad. But I’ll give him this, this is a better film than “Psycho 3” and a much better way to end the franchise on. There is an interesting set-up here for a story a radio DJ gets an unusual call during her show and slowly realizes that she’s talking to THE Norman Bates. Once again he’s been released, gotten married to a therapist and they’re expecting a child that he worries will be insane like him. She also suspects that he’s planning to kill again. To try and keep people safe she keeps him on the air and a majority of the film is made up of flashbacks to his young life. Young Norman is played by Henry Thomas (Elliot from “E.T.”) with Norma Bates played by Olivia Hussey. She and really the entire cast are really good. I would guess that despite this being a made-for-TV movie the fact that the screenplay is written by the original film’s writer, Joseph Stefano made it feel alluring for the actors. The film does a good job of getting us invested in young Norman’s plight. Overall I’d just call the film okay. It doesn’t have anything in the way of scares really. However, the ending is happy and after all he’s been through it is nice to see the series end on a better note. So Mick Garris, you did alright.
Eric’s advice: As far as horror prequels go… this is still unnecessary, but give it a watch if you’re really curious it’s not terrible.
1.) Psycho (1999)
There are two approaches to remakes. One where you basically make a totally different movie that just happens to have the same name as an earlier film. Or where you essentially just copy the older movie with newer filming techniques and actors. Both can work, but both can also be a recipe for bad remakes. More so the second example because you’re not showing much imagination. It really brings the common criticism of remakes in general to the forefront. Why bother making the same thing again? When asked this question director Gus Van Sant simply replied, “so no one else would have to.” In 1998, Van Sant not only decided to remake one of the most famous movies by one of the most famous directors, but to make what is essentially a shot-for-shot remake. Some complain about that term being applied here and yes not ALL of the shots are exactly the same. Still, it’s close enough for this to be incredibly pointless. I typically refer to this film as a fascinating train-wreck, like the train somehow gets airborne and does a few flips in this wreck.
Because it is an interesting experiment to see modern filmmakers recreate whole scenes from a classic film while trying to get as much of it as exact as possible. I’ll go so far as to say I’m sure this was a fun yet challenging filmmaking experiment for Van Sant. Sadly it doesn’t translate into that fun of a viewing experience for the viewer. The novelty wears off pretty fast. They add some dumb things like random shots of lighting during the famous shower sequence. Also, making it clear that Norman is masturbating while watching Marion through the hole in the wall. However, these to me are not really the damning things about this remake. It is the casting. This film is a treasure-trove of miscasting. It’s full of great actors like Viggo Mortensen and Julianne Moore plus Anne Heche. Who are all just so miscast in this film. As you watch it all you can think about is how much better the other actors were because you have the successful example in your mind. Plus since they’re not changing the script other than maybe one or two lines of dialog from an original movie that came from a more theatrical way of talking and presenting dialog these modern actors just don’t have it to make it sound normal. All of this is excluding William H Macy as the private eye, Arbogast. He perfectly sounds appropriately in keeping with modern acting and the older 60s style. I’m not sure how he does it, but is all of the roles were cast this well then maybe this remake could be its own OK remake.
It would still have the problem having no reason to exist, but at least it could be seen as its own interesting experience. But no. Not only that we have one of the worst miscastings in probably the single most important role that they had to get right and they failed big time. Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates. Now a thing to remember he wasn’t that well-known at the time. He hadn’t started doing his really zany Frat Pack comedies yet so at the time it wasn’t THAT strange to have him in this role. It was still a mistake because Vaughn is trying WAY too hard to seem crazy and creepy. Anthony Perkins brought a real sincere quality to the role that is totally absent from Vaughn’s take. I truly can’t see what Van Sant saw in his vacuous expressions, but man is this one major miscalculation. So all we’re left is not only a bad remake of a great film, but one that doesn’t even really have a reason to exist. Much like the remake of “The Haunting” the only thing the remake does better than the original is the poster. To the point I wish the remake’s poster WAS the poster to the original film.
Eric’s advice: Only see if you’re really curious about this experiment and even then only see ONCE.
Honorable Mention: “Bates Motel”
Much like my Hannibal Lecter series guide there is a TV show that I know a lot of people really enjoy. However, I haven’t seen it so again if you really want to hear me discuss it then you tell me.
Eric’s opinion: N/A.