In 1998, Oscar® nominated director Gus Van Sant brought an updated
version of Alfred Hitchcock's shocking 1960 film Psycho to the screen. Not simply an
updated version of the suspense thriller, but a shot-for-shot remake of the film. The original screenplay,
updated for the 90s by original screenwriter Joseph Stefano, was used to create this new edition.
Marion Crane (Anne Heche) is on the run. She has stolen $400,000 in cash from her employer and is heading
west from Arizona to California where she plans to give the money to her long-time lover Sam Loomis (Viggo
Mortensen). With the money, he can erase his fathers debt and provide enough security for them to get
married. Her plans take a shocking turn for the worse when she stops for the night at the Bates Motel.
Running the Motel on this rainy night is Norman Bates (Vince Vaughn), a troubled man living under the
oppressive thumb of his "mother." When Marion stirs feelings deep within Norman, "mother" will not tolerate these
feelings in her son and chooses to eliminate the source. Now, Marion's sister (Julianne Moore), Sam and
Arbogast (William H. Macy), a private investigator, are looking for the fugitive. What they discover about
Norman and his "mother" is shocking and what has happened to Marion is horrifying.
With the remake of Psycho, Universal allowed an update to one of Alfred Hitchcock's most
terrifying films. Made with the attitude of paying homage to Hitchcock, rather than trying to "fix" the original,
director Gus Van Sant and actors Vince Vaughn, Anne Heche, Julianne Moore, Viggo Mortensen and William H. Macy
bring new life into this classic tail of suspense and murder. It is not an exact copy of the 1960 classic film
as each actor brings to each character a slight twist from the original. Nearly 95% of the film is shot-for-shot
from Hitchcock's version, with some embellishment in other areas.
The performances here overall very good. I found William H. Macy's, "Arbogast" exceptionally well acted. Macy,
whose previous work includes 1998s Pleasantville, has captured his character more honestly than any other.
Viggo Mortensen as "Sam Loomis" is very good as well, however he seems to be just too detached from the story.
While he seems interested in what has happened to his lover, he doesn't seem driven to find out the answers. As
Marion's sister, Julianne Moore does a much less worthy job. I was vastly unimpressed with her performance and
in her general portrayal. Her "hard edge" take of the character seems misplaced and overall she simply seems
to be going through the motions. Anne Heche plays Marion differently than did Janet Leigh in the original,
but it comes across still convincing. Her performance shows us a slightly different side of Marion, but it does
not take away from the Marion Crane created by Janet Leigh. Of particular note is the performance of Vince
Vaughn. When Anthony Perkins played "Norman Bates" in 1960, it was a stand out performance. Norman was
completely detached from the horror he is committing. Vaughn's take on Norman is fascinating. Here, Norman is
a bit more twisted, more devious. He seems more fully aware of the horror his "mother" is causing. Perkins
version seemed to be aware of what was happening to his victims, but only from the standpoint of having to clean
up the mess. Here, Vaughn's version seems more that "mother" and Norman are more joined - in that Norman is not
only aware of what has happened, but aware that he has committed these horrible acts.
Universal Studios Home Video has done a wonderful job with this new film in its DVD version. The colors are
bright and vivid without being over saturated. Detail is also excellently rendered in this Enhanced 16x9
transfer. The original score by Bernard Herrmann has been artfully adapted by Danny Elfman and
re-recorded. The 5.1 soundtrack is encompassing, with excellent imaging and sound placement.
Along with the film, we are presented with a commentary track with Director Gus Van Sant and stars Anne Heche
and Vince Vaughn. It was recorded during a viewing of the film before the final video transfer was complete
and all make references to some of the problems with colors on the screen they are watching. None of the color
issues are present in the final transfer. The interaction between the three is warm and inviting and their
insights into the making of the film is fascinating. They do not discuss a great deal of how the film was
made, but discuss to great length the motivations and thought processes of the film. I throughly enjoyed this
commentary track, probably more so than any I have listened to in some time. Accessing the track can be done
as with most Universal titles through the "Bonus Materials" menu and from the "Languages" menu.
The disc also features a documentary, Psycho Path. It is a 30 minute program discussing many of the
ideas and thoughts as to why remake this particular film. There are interviews with some of the production
staff from the 1960 original version and also with Hitchcock's daughter who also appeared in the original.
The piece was produced during the production of the film and feels more like one of those "on location"
type programs produced for a cable TV channel. In contrast, the documentary on the DVD of the original
Psycho ran 94 minutes.
There is a LaserDisc edition, part of Universal's Signature Collection, which includes all of the same
materials available on this DVD. It was not available for review at the time of this writing.
I was not sure how to take a shot-for-shot remake of Psycho. I believed the project was rather
intriguing, but was not sure how it would be received by the public. Having seen what was done, I must say
it achieves its goal. It pays homage to Hitchcock and his works. One thing that happens when you watch
a film like this, you cannot help but be somewhat jaded...If you've seen the original film, you automatically
know what is going to happen to the characters. This gives you more time to focus on the technical aspects
of the film and compare the original to the 1998 update.
I enjoyed the DVD presentation of Psycho. For fans of the original, it's interesting to see this new take
on the film and what a new set of actors and a new director do with the same materials.