Psycho (1960)


I’ll Lick the Stamps.

Time to add another classic horror film to my repertoire in the October Horrorthon.  This one came as a request, nay, a demand from my roommate Richurd.  He’s a big fan of the world famous director of this movie and was recently shocked and appalled to find that his world famous stuff-reviewer roommate has never seen a movie directed by this man.  I have, however, seen and reviewed the remake of this movie which I thought may have been good enough, but Richurd disagreed.  So, fulfilling both a request and a classic horror movie, as well as attempting to make up for the fact that I had never seen the classic original and instead decided to watch the much berated remake, I present you my review of the movie Psycho, based on a novel by Robert Bloch, written for the screen by Joseph Stefano, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and starring Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, John Gavin, Vera Miles, Martin Balsam, John McIntire, and Simon Oakland.

A secretary named Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) steals some money from her boss to help her divorced boyfriend Sam Loomis (John Gavin) pay off his debts so that they can finally be together.  After stealing the money, she flees in her car to take the money to Sam.  On the way there, her nervous demeanor arouses the suspicions of a highway patrol officer who starts to follow her, causing her to switch her car out at a dealership to try to lose him.  Continuing on her way, she gets caught in a heavy downpour of rain and decides to pull into the Bates Motel for the night, finding that she is the only occupant.  She meets the owner of the Motel, a man named Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), who is a shy, nice man who gets angry when you suggest he put his crazy mother in an institution.  Instead of dealing with that situation, Marion decides that she should go to the one place where she can truly be safe: the shower.

This is another classic movie that I feel like I was expected to like much more than I did.  But in this case, I’m pretty sure I already know the problem.  The problem with this movie is that it’s been around for so long and it’s been talked about so much that I could not help but know exactly what happens around every corner of this movie.  The only thing I would not have been able to tell you before watching the movie was that Marion stole some money from her boss, but I took care of learning about that part by watching the remake, which is almost exactly the same movie.  Everything else about the movie – the shower scene, the reveal about the mother at the end of the movie, etc. – was already well known to me before I even had any inkling to try to watch the movie.  That all being said, I have tried to divorce myself from that and I’ve reached the conclusion that the story of this movie is pretty good, and you may actually be able to get some enjoyment out of it if you somehow managed to make it through life without knowing how the movie ends.

Another problem that comes with the age of this movie is the look.  Now, I don’t think the look for the movie was bad or anything; it was just in black and white and I tend to get visually bored while watching them.  One thing that did get to me was reading the Wikipedia page for the film and seeing that that it is apparently famous for “bringing a new level of acceptable violence and sexuality” to films.  Obviously I realize that times were different back when this movie came out, but I did not watch this movie (or exist) when this movie came out.  I watched it in 2012, where sexuality in film has gone to the point where Chloë Sevigny is really sucking a dick on camera and violence is really close to filming autopsies, so it probably doesn’t have the same effect on me as it did back then.  Sexuality for this movie is Janet Leigh wearing a torpedo bra, which I actually found less sexual than her with her shirt on.  And violence is holding a knife in front of her stomach and darker water mixing with regular water and going down a drain.  I assume it was supposed to be blood, but I usually am able to distinguish something as blood by the color red.  I think I actually preferred the shower scene from the remake.  Perhaps it was because I think blood is more effective when it’s red, or perhaps I missed Anne Heche’s butthole.  Or perhaps being nitpicky.  Speaking of which, the music of the movie kept getting to me too.  At first, I kept trying to figure out where I had heard this music before, but I was never able to figure it out.  Then, it got on my nerves that the music was ramping up so heavy during a scene that was not as intense as the music would lead me to believe.  Janet Leigh is just driving in the rain.  You can calm down now.  Don’t try to convince me that she’s in peril when she’s doing something I almost fell asleep doing two days ago.

The performances in the movie were all pretty good.  Not a lot to complain about.  Janet Leigh was classy, hot, and portrayed her nervousness through the first half of the movie very well.  I would say that she didn’t make much of an impact in the latter half of the movie.  She was just dead weight.  Anthony Perkins was probably the most impressive person in this movie, but he also kind of played multiple characters.  He did a really good job of making that turn from the sweet guy to really angry, but I would say he does a really piss-poor job of covering up for murders.  I do a better job cleaning my bathroom than he did of cleaning a bathroom to cover up a murder.  Just a once over with a hand towel?  That’s what you’re gonna do, playboy?  I also thought he did a great job portraying Norman as being a terrible liar when his back was against the wall.  He was so bad at it that I was really hoping that the private detective that was questioning him would’ve walked out of the room and said, “I guess there’s nothing going on here.  Moving on!”  That would’ve been hilarious.  Also, did Norman do any research on that swamp to find out if it was indeed deep enough to conceal a car with a body in the trunk?  That would’ve been delightful if he pushed the car in and watched with a smug satisfaction until it stopped sinking with the whole trunk sticking out.

I can’t say that I was entirely impressed by Psycho, but I blame everyone who was not involved in the movie for it.  It’s all of their faults that I already knew everything about this movie before I started watching it.  I also blame the bulk of them for raising unrealistic expectations for this movie.  I blame my mother for not having me when she was 10 so I could’ve seen this movie when it came out.  And I also blame the Lumière brothers for not inventing the Autochrome early enough that color film would have been the norm at the time this movie was made so I had to imagine what shade of gray blood would be.  The movie itself is fine enough, but everything else ruined it for me.  Psycho gets “A son is a poor substitute for a lover” out of “We all go a little mad sometimes.”

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Psycho (1998)


12 Cabins, 12 Vacancies

I feel like I’ve made a mistake that I can’t rectify now. I probably should have watched the original of this movie before watching the remake, but I didn’t and I doubt I’ll be able to by the time this review comes out. Today’s movie is a remake of a classic Alfred Hitchcock movie, and I’ve never seen a Hitchcock movie before. Calm down, everybody! It wasn’t like I refused to watch them, it just never came up. And once I had started today’s movie, I started realizing that I should’ve watched the original first. But, in my defense, this movie could potentially have been hurt by everybody comparing it to the original, and I’m going in unbiased. Yeah, that’s a good excuse. I win. … The movie is Psycho, this version written by Joseph Stefano, directed by Gus Van Sant, and starring Vince Vaughn, Anne Heche, Viggo Mortensen, Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, Philip Baker Hall, Anne Haney, James Remar, Rita Wilson, James LeGros, Flea, and Robert Forster.

Marion Crane (Anne Heche) has a fantastic boyfriend named Sam Loomis (Viggo Mortensen), who is married and in debt. What makes him fantastic? He is Viggo! You are like the buzzing of flies to him! Psst. I WILL make that joke for every Viggo Mortensen performance I review. You’ve been warned. Anyways, Marion works at some job that I never really figured out. Realty, I think? Anyways, she steals $400,000 from a guy who came in to talk with her boss and pay for something in cash. She takes it to get her boyfriend out of debt. She starts driving to California to see him. A cop wakes her up as she sleeps on the side of the road in her car and her skittish demeanor makes him suspicious, so he follows her. She trades her car in for a new one to lose him (even though she knows he’s parked across the street), and even though he comes up, sees her take the new car, and probably talks with the salesperson about her paying in cash, he does not follow. … Whatever, we just need her to get to the Motel, right? She gets caught in a rainstorm and pulls off at the Bates Motel. She meets Norman Bates (Vince Vaughn), who owns the place. He has plenty of rooms because no one ever comes by. He apparently lives there with his mother, who is crazy. He seems nice enough until she suggests putting his mother in an institution, and he gets very upset. She goes to her room, where she decides to return the money the next day, and then goes to take a shower. Do I really haveta tell you how that shower ends?

I didn’t really like this movie, and that proves to me that I also won’t like the original. I HAVE SPOKEN! Even though I’ve never seen the original, I feel like I pretty much know it by heart because of parodies and just seeing scenes from it everywhere. I know the whole mother surprise, I know the shower scene, I know Norman looking through the hole in the wall, I don’t remember him masturbating as he did it, and I’ve actually been to the damned Motel on the Universal lot. That being the case, I feel like this movie stuck so close to the original (or at least what I know about it) that there really wasn’t any reason to make it. The only difference is that it’s in color and stars people I know. And if you aren’t going to add to it (but may potentially subtract from it) there’s no reason to do it. I did not, however, know there was a second half of this movie. I don’t know how I thought this movie worked out, being an entire movie leading up to a murder in a shower and cross-dressing revealed in the last 5 minutes, but I did. So it was interesting to find out what happened in the second half. I wish I had ever figured out what time this movie was supposed to take place in though. I thought they replicated this movie so much that they even set it in the 60s, especially when William H. Macy showed up. Macy acted like a pretty typical 60s cop, and then Julianne Moore walks in wearing a Walkman, for no apparent reason other than to say “PSYCH … O!” There were a bunch of things that didn’t work in this movie, the biggest of which was the music. I know it was a nod to Hitchcock, but I found it kind of tedious and adding to tension that wasn’t there. They would have really tense driving music when Heche was driving in her car. COME ON! She WAS getting herself all worried by having a really annoying interior monologue of people talking about her and figuring out what she’d done, but SHE was worried, not me. I was bored. You don’t need to lay everything flat on the table for the audience, we can figure some things out. But they do that again at the very end of the movie, where the psychologist that talks to Norman lays out exactly what he did and why he did it for about 5 minutes and I was thinking “Yeah, I know. I figured it out when I saw him in the wig.”

The performances were fine in this movie. Not spectacular, but mostly not horrible. Vince Vaughn was kind of like other Vince Vaughn characters, but more creepy, shy, and nervous. Anne Heche looked, and acted, pretty good in this. Her performance in the shower scene seemed a little off, but I think she was trying to do a remake of the performance from the original. Otherwise her reaction to being stabbed was perhaps a bit strange. I had no idea that Viggo Mortensen, Julianne Moore, or William H. Macy were even in this, but I was happy to see they got a pretty descent cast for a movie that didn’t need to happen. I thought Macy’s performance was strange when I started to figure out that this was supposed to be happening in the 80s, but it wasn’t off-putting. The thing that WAS off-putting was how bad his death was. It wasn’t his fault, but I forgot to put it in the last paragraph and I ain’t goin all the way up there to add it. He “falls” down the stairs, but it’s fairly obvious that the “down the stairs” part is green screen and he’s just standing in front of it flailing.

Based on what I know, this seems like a shot for shot remake of a movie regarded as a classic, but I found it to be very boring. Judging by the other reviews for the two movies, my guess is they did a poor job trying to remake the original, which probably didn’t need to be remade. The performances were mostly okay, but the movie didn’t really need to be made. We’ll see if neither movie needed to be made if I ever get around to the original. In the meantime, you don’t really need to watch this one. The remake of Psycho gets “We all go a little mad sometimes” out of “A son is a poor substitute for a lover”.

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