Thirty-eight years after Alfred Hitchcock released his masterpiece, Psycho, the universe decided it was time to make him roll around in his grave with horror. What could make this happen? A remake. Sure, Hitchcock believed in the remake. Hell, he remade one of his own films. But remaking Psycho, one of the greatest horror films of all time, is a crime. And an instant loss of ratings points. Psycho (the remake) is directed by Gus Van Sant and in an effort to show respect for the film and its auteur, is a near shot-for-shot recreation of the original. You’d think sticking so closely to the original would make for a better film, but the truth is it highlights a very important life lesson. Even an exact replica isn’t as good as the original. Some (most) films just shouldn’t be remade.
Starring Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates, Anne Heche as Marion Crane and Julianne Moore as Lila, this film follows the same plot. Marion steals money from her place of work and plans to run away to live a life with her lover. En route, she stops at the Bates Motel and meets Norman. A quirky, mama’s boy, Norman runs the motel while his elderly mother bosses him around from the house adjacent. William H. Macy also fills out the cast as the private detective.
This film changed very little from the original. The time period is different, as it takes place in 1998. The actors are obviously different. The amount of money Marion steals is larger, which makes sense. All of these things may seem like small adjustments, details irrelevant to the larger plot. But they do matter, somehow. The magic and elegance of the original film is lost in this remake. The music and credits may all be the same, but the film is not. This is a perfect example of why you shouldn’t remake a film. I imagine Gus Van Sant thought he was doing the right thing in recreating the film with such precision instead of taking it in a new direction, but he can’t win either way. This film is one of the best - better than the best. And whether you’re paying tribute to it or re-imagining it, you shouldn’t be.
One reason the magic may be missing from this film is the casting choices. Perhaps it’s impossible to be objective in a post-Wedding Crashers era, but Vince Vaughn is not Norman Bates. Nor will he ever be. He may be a great comedic actor, but he’s not a great dramatic one and everything compelling about Norman was missing in Vaughn’s performance. Anne Heche was drab and dull as Marion, lacking the earnest attitude Janet Leigh possessed so well. Julianne Moore and William H. Macy, both fantastic actors, seemed ill-fitted to their roles. Bad casting can turn even the best actors into a mess.
This film is a remake, and therefore it will be considered against its original. That’s just a fact. Perhaps if the original Psycho never happened, this film may have received a higher score, but I doubt it. This film brings none of the magic that Hitchcock’s version had and none of its own magic either. A waste of film, I’d say. The studio must have been mad to think this would work, but then... we all go a little mad sometimes.
If you liked Psycho, you might also like Psycho, The Shining and Cold Creek Manor.