[Screen It]


(1998) (Vince Vaughn, Anne Heche) (R)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Minor Heavy Extreme *Moderate Heavy
Minor Minor Heavy None Minor
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Heavy Minor Minor Mild Extreme

Horror: After stealing her boss' money, a woman's random encounter with a quirky motel clerk and his little seen mother eventually reveals horrible secrets for a group of people looking for that woman.
Returning from a noontime rendevous with her married lover, Sam Loomis (VIGGO MORTENSEN), Marion Crane (ANNE HECHE) returns to her Phoenix job as real estate office assistant. When a wealthy businessman deposits $400,00 in cash on her desk, a spark of hope suddenly fills Marion's otherwise uneventful life. Instead of taking the money to the bank for her boss, she packs her bags and hits the road, hoping to meet her cash poor lover and start their lives anew.

Seeking refuge after driving through a blinding rainstorm at night, Marion happens upon the completely vacant, twelve room Bates Motel. There she meets the somewhat creepy, but friendly enough manager, Norman Bates (VINCE VAUGHN), who lives with his elderly mother in the large house on the hill behind the motel.

After having dinner together, Marion decides to call it a night, but while she's taking a shower, an apparently older woman suddenly attacks and stabs her to death. Moments later, Norman appears, appalled at what he presumes his mother has done, but like a good protective son, he cleans up the mess and covers up the crime.

Meanwhile, Marion's sister, Lila (JULIANNE MOORE) shows up at Sam's office stating that Marion has disappeared along with the nearly half a million dollars. Almost simultaneously, private investigator Milton Arbogast (WILLIAM H. MACY) also arrives having been hired by the owner of the money.

As Arbogast and then Sam and Lila start snooping around the Bates motel looking for clues and information about Marion, they soon uncover an unpleasant and shocking revelation regarding Norman and his mother.

If they're fans of someone in the cast, or are curious about the controversy surrounding this near shot for shot remake of Hitchcock's original, they just might.
For violence and sexuality/nudity.
  • VINCE VAUGHN plays a psychotically disturbed and homicidal young man.
  • ANNE HECHE plays a woman who steals her company's money for her and her married lover's future.
  • VIGGO MORTENSEN plays her married lover who sets out to find Marion along with the help of her headstrong sister played by JULIANNE MOORE.
  • WILLIAM H. MACY plays a private investigator hired to find Marion.


    OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
    Not since the advent of "colorizing" classic Hollywood films has a studio's handling of a well- renowned movie stirred up so much outrage among cinema purists. While many classic titles have been remade throughout the history of film -- with pictures such as "King Kong," "Rear Window" and "Sabrina" receiving updated overhauls -- and others have had their plots or individual scenes pilfered by later day auteurs -- raise your hand, Brian De Palma ("Body Double," "Blow Out") -- it's not often that a film is re-shot scene by scene.

    It was somewhat done for 1973's version of "Double Indemnity," but rarely has it drawn the outrage that's followed the announcement of director Gus Van Sant's decision to essentially reshoot the precursor and grandfather, excuse me, grandMOTHER, of the past two decades of slasher films -- Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho."

    To set the record straight, there are a few minor differences between the two versions of this story -- this one's set in the present and was filmed in color, monetary amounts have been updated and some dialogue has been changed, etc... -- but, for the most part, this is pretty much exactly the same movie that originally debuted in 1960.

    The question that now comes to most people's minds is "why?" I can tell you for a fact that I haven't a clue. I've heard all sorts of different reasons, such as paying homage to the original, or that Van Sant simply wanted to walk in the footsteps of Hitchcock and reenact the film's shooting. Whatever the explanation, it wasn't a good decision for several reasons.

    First, the film, while revered by many, simply isn't a great picture when viewed today and certainly isn't one of Hitchcock's best (think of "North By Northwest," "Vertigo," etc...). Although it scared the socks off most moviegoers when it debuted -- as the first "slasher" film and before most people had ever heard about psychotically disturbed serial killers -- the film just isn't that frightening today.

    After horror pictures like "The Exorcist," "Halloween" and "The Silence of the Lambs," the original "Psycho" comes off like a well-made, but decidedly antiquated piece. Slowly paced with only a few classic scares and absolutely nothing remotely frightening occurring until forty-five minutes into the picture (only Robert Rodriguez's "From Dusk Till Dawn" comes to mind as a recent film that takes so long to get to its horror), the story -- as solid as it still is, and as scary as it probably was -- simply lacks the necessary "oomph" in today's market.

    The second reason concerns the overall choice of this particular picture. Beyond the use of color to make the infamous shower scene a bit more graphically bloody, there's nothing in the film that cries out for an updating (compared, for instance, to the lousy "King Kong" remake that showcased the technical improvements made over the years since the original).

    As such, Van Sant seems to stumble over how to manage the timely aspects of his new picture. While it's set in 1998, much of the dialogue -- mostly left intact from the original -- sounds out of place considering its antiquated vocabulary and delivery.

    The director -- best known for helming "Good Will Hunting" and "To Die For" -- also has investigator Arbogast constantly wear a 1950's like, and now out-of-style hat, while the local sheriff's wife picks up the phone and asks the operator to connect her to the Bates motel, two things that don't jive with modern day times.

    The problem really rears its ugly head in scenes such as when Marion decides to trade in her car to cover her tracks. The fact that she pays the difference between the two cars with four $1,000 bills would surely raise anyone's eyebrows, whereas it somehow seemed to fit in better in the original where she made in $100 bills (although back then that was probably outrageous as well). Nonetheless, when viewing an older film set in the past -- when most everyone was less suspicious and more "innocent" than today -- it seems easier to buy into such a notion than what's presented here.

    If the film were to be remade shot for shot, why not leave everything intact, or conversely, update everything to modern times? By forging a middle ground, the result is a muddled mess that's consequently stuck in limbo trying to figure out in which time period it wants to exist.

    In addition, while I don't claim to be an expert on the original, it was quite obvious (upon having just viewed the first film) that subtle changes were made within the same shots, although Bernard Herrmann's screeching score (now arranged by Danny Elfman) and most of Joseph Stefano's screenplay (based on the novel by Robert Bloch) remain intact.

    Of course, most people are interested in how the new cast rates when compared with those appearing in the original. Regarding that, while some have stated that this "re-staged" film shouldn't be viewed any differently than the many incarnations of Broadway musicals -- something of a valid point in and upon itself -- you can't help but compare and criticize those who fill the shoes of the original performers.

    As such, Vince Vaughn ("Clay Pigeons," "Return to Paradise"), a tremendously talented actor, simply can't compare to Anthony Perkins in the central role. While he gives something of an appropriately creepy and spooky performance, he's too physically imposing to give the role the proper squirrelly characteristics that Perkins perfectly brought to the original, and to put it quite simply, there's only one Norman Bates and it will always be Mr. Perkins.

    Of course, considering that Van Sant has essentially redone the original, it may have made sense to cast performers who more closely resemble the actors and actresses from the first film. If that had been done, a much better choice for the role of Norman would have been Jeremy Davies ("Saving Private Ryan," "The Locusts") a little known actor with an uncanny resemblance to a young Anthony Perkins.

    The rest of the cast goes through the now well-known motions in their roles. Julianne Moore ("Boogie Nights," "The Big Lebowski") and Viggo Mortensen ("A Perfect Murder," "G.I. Jane") are decent in the parts originated by Vera Miles and John Gavin, but don't bring anything particularly special to their performances.

    Meanwhile, the always reliable William H. Macy ("Fargo," "Pleasantville") takes over the private investigator role from Martin Balsam (but isn't quite as convincing), while Anne Heche ("Six Days, Seven Nights," "Wag the Dog") has the unenviable role of trying to outdo or at least match the original Oscar nominated performance from Janet Leigh. Unfortunately, she doesn't succeed and her part will probably best be remembered for a rather unflattering and briefly graphic shot of her derriere sticking up over the side of the bathtub.

    All in all, most will probably agree that this sort of remake of a film like "Psycho" was unnecessary and comes off only as a pale imitation of the original. With performances that can't help but be unfavorably compared to the originals and a presentation in color that actually detracts from the first film's creepy atmosphere (that was punctuated by the black and white footage), the film will have a hard time finding an audience beyond the initially curious.

    Fans of the original will protest the remake, while today's teen audience will find the proceedings decidedly less than frightening than what's been available in the past decade or so. Lacking the shock value it once possessed, the story simply isn't up to par in today's market and the film will most likely prove to be yet another misstep for the recently snake-bitten Universal Studios. Having just watched the superior original, and seeing nothing compelling in the remake, we give the 1998 version of "Psycho" just a 3 out of 10.

    Here's a quick look at the content found in this R-rated film. Two people are repeatedly stabbed to death with knives, and the results are bloody and may scare some viewers (especially if they aren't familiar with the original film). Some other non-lethal violence also occurs.

    This remake also adds a bit more nudity than was present in the original, along with heavily implied masturbation (while Norman stares at Marion through a hole in the wall) and some sexual sounds from an unseen encounter in another hotel room.

    Beyond the scary and suspenseful elements, as well as the bad attitudes presented by the killer and Marion (for stealing her company's money), the rest of the categories have little or no major objectionable material. As always, however, should you still be concerned about the film's appropriateness, we suggest that you take a closer look at what's been listed.

  • A client asks Marion's boss, "Speaking of feeling good, what happened to that bottle you said was in your desk?" He then says, "I'm dying of thirst-aroony" and we then see him having a drink (and he tells Marion that he and her boss are going to go out later for a little more drinking).
  • A mug sits on the table next to Lila and holds what looks like beer.
  • As Marion is repeatedly stabbed, we see blood on her, even more in the water in the shower (with it circling the drain) as well as some on the wall as her body slides down it.
  • Moments later we see some blood on the side of the tub, on the bathroom floor, on Marion's body, as well as on Norman's hands after he wraps her body in a shower curtain.
  • We then see Norman smearing the blood on the floor (and in the tub) as he tries to mop it up.
  • A man has blood on his face after he's been stabbed.
  • As a chair slowly spins around, we see a near mummified corpse sitting in it (along with a spider that crawls from its mouth).
  • Obviously Norman has both for being a murderer.
  • Marion has both for stealing her boss' money, and for having an affair with Sam (who thus also has both).
  • Scenes listed under "Violence" may also be tense to viewers, and their scariness will depend on the viewer's age, tolerance for such material, and whether they've seen the original film.
  • Later scenes in the movie, including when Sam and Lila show up at the Bates motel, are suspenseful, especially when they culminate in violence and Lila's encounter with Norman's "mother."
  • Knife: Used by the killer to stab several people to death.
  • Rifles: Seen on the wall in Sam's shop and one is also seen on the wall in Norman's room.
  • Phrase: "Shut up."
  • Norman peers through a hole in the wall to watch Marion undressing.
  • The killer lunges out at a man (accompanied by sudden music).
  • Lila suddenly catches a glimpse of herself in a mirror.
  • A heavy amount of suspenseful and fright-inducing music occurs during the movie.
  • None.
  • 1 use of "Oh God."
  • We see Marion and Sam in bed implying that they've just had sex in a hotel room. We see her in her bra, and then see that he's nude (including a brief bare butt shot). We also hear somewhat muted sexual sounds of another couple from another room.
  • We see Marion in her bra again as she's getting dressed (with some cleavage).
  • Norman peers through a hole in the wall and watches Marion getting undressed (we see a brief glimpse of the side of her bare breast). By some movement that's seen and sounds that are heard, it's not hard to tell that he's masturbating while watching her.
  • As Norman attacks Marion with a knife in the shower, we see momentary glimpses of her nude body (from different angles) and then a somewhat longer (and more graphic) view of her bare butt as she lies dead over the edge of the tub.
  • Lila finds a porno magazine among Norman's things and we briefly see some bare-breasted women in it.
  • A person in a police station holds an unlit cigar.
  • Lila worries about Marion's disappearance.
  • Obviously Norman and his "mother" have some problems getting along (and Norman mentions that his mother had to raise him by herself after his father died).
  • Mentally disturbed (and often violent) individuals.
  • That this movie (and the original) were based on the exploits of serial killer Ed Gein.
  • Why this movie was remade nearly shot for shot from the original.
  • A woman is repeatedly stabbed in a shower until she's dead (no actual impact is seen).
  • A man is stabbed and then falls down the stairs to his death (no actual impact is seen).
  • There's talk of a woman having poisoned herself and her lover, but we later learn that someone else killed them.
  • A man hits another man on the head with a golf club, momentarily knocking him out.
  • A man comes after a woman with a knife, but another man then hits the first on the head. The two then struggle and knock over some items, until the second man gains control of the first and the woman kicks him in the head.

  • Reviewed December 4, 1998 / Posted on December 4, 1998

    Other new and recent reviews include:

    [1917] [Bombshell] [Cats] [Little Women] [Spies In Disguise] [Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker] [Uncut Gems]

    Privacy Statement and Terms of Use and Disclaimer
    By entering this site you acknowledge to having read and agreed to the above conditions.

    All Rights Reserved,
    ©1996-2020 Screen It, Inc.