Today’s Prayer Focus


MPA Rating: R-Rating (MPA) for violence and sexuality/nudity.

Reviewed by: Brian Nigro

Moral Rating: Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:
Primary Audience: Adults
Genre: Horror/Thriller
Year of Release: 1998
USA Release:
Featuring Vince Vaughn, Julianne Moore, Viggo Mortensen, William H. Macy, Philip Baker Hall, Anne Heche, Rita Wilson
Director Gus Van Sant

The new “Psycho” was not screened for critics ahead of time—not because Universal thought it was terrible and it would get terrible reviews, however, but because the original wasn’t screened for critics, either. Nonetheless, the new version came in at #2 at the box office, which indicates to at least this viewer a target audience of (a.) die-hard fans of Hitchcock films, (b.) renewed fans of the original, or (c.), the most likely scenario, teenagers who dislike black and white and couldn’t possibly like a horror movie with no blood and minimal violence. The new version is so calculated, so admittely scene-for-scene that there’s no room for audience curiosity and no room for director’s exploration.

The cast is problematic. Vince Vaugh is no Norman Bates (he already played a scarier psychotic in “Clay Pigeons”, earlier this year, and I’ll always remember that laugh from that movie). Anne Heche is no Janet Leigh, particularly when her hair is cut so short. Viggo Mortenson already ripped off a Hitchock character as Gwyneth Paltrow’s beau. And, the fine actress Julianne Moore is terribly underwritten as Marion’s sister, not to mention misplaced with her backpack and walkman headphones—I don’t remember the sister being so underwritten in the original.

The concept behind the new “Psycho” is a good one—remake a movie from the original script. There are plenty of movies that deserve such treatment that instead got a reworking with profanity and nudity or with revised character that bear little resemblence to their original counterparts.

A strong warning for Christian audiences: While the new “Psycho” is filmed scene for scene from the original screenplay, director Gus Van Sant incorporates nudity, some sexual content, and “red” blood (as opposed to the chocolate syrup of Hitchock’s black and white) that doesn’t really enhance the plot. The 1960 version has no profanity or conspicuous nudity and, as such, is less deserving of an “R” rating.

Bottom line: For Hitchcock fans only, not for casual moviegoers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Being a huge fan of the orginal (and of Hitchcock in general) I was expecting, perhaps naively, a great remake. But what I got instead was shallow acting by actors who did not fit the roles. Vince Vaughn’s body has too much of a build to be Norman Bates and what’s Heche’s hair? The scene where Norman “explores” himself was cut from Hitchock’s orginal but Van Sant apparently thought it was necessary to advance the plot, although I didn't. Did anyone understand the cows? My verdict: Save about three bucks and go to the video store and rent the original. There is no profanity and no clear nudity. The black and white version also adds to the fright and mystery factor, although those of you used to modern slasher flicks may find it a bit cheesy.
A. Lance Murphy, age 18
Director Gus Van Sant’s new “Psycho” may be an interesting experiment, but it proves there is a reason filmmakers don’t remake films shot-by-shot. Nothing new or interesting can be brought to the table, which is the case here. I would have much rather seen Hitchcock’s original on the big screen. Why mess with perfection? The new Psycho fails for several reasons. First of all, it isn’t truly shot-for-shot—not even in the murder sequences, where random, unrelated shots are inserted, presumably to illustrate Norman Bates' twisted state of mind. It’s a distracting technique that doesn’t work. The use of color actually harms the claustrophobic atmosphere of the story, undercutting the shock value of several scenes—including the famous shower scene, and the retro-50’s production design makes the film seem less contemporary and real. However, I do have to take exception to a few of your reviewer’s comments. There is no added profanity in the film, and the nudity, as almost non-existent as it is, is nothing more than what Hitchcock wanted in the first place (the final shot in the shower scene, for example). In addition, Marion Crane was played by Janet Leigh in the original 1960 version, not Vivian. Lastly, Julianne Moore’s part as Marion’s sister certainly wasn’t underwritten—it was the same amount of screen time as the original, save for one excised scene—but Moore’s take on the character was odd and unmemorable. Because of the intensity of the subject matter, I wouldn’t recommend this film to anyone too young to handle it, and certainly not this version. Hitchcock was the Master of Suspense for a reason, and this remake does nothing to dispel that notion.
Christopher Heyn, age 33
A total rip-off of one of the finest films of the genre. No thrills or chills. How could there be, when the film is a complete copy of the superior original? The unnecessary addition of autoerotic behaviour produced nothing but snickers from the viewing audience that was introduced to such on-screen activity in the summer’s film “There’s Something About Mary.” If you must see “Psycho”, rent the original. For those of you who don’t like black and white—use your imagination!
Kent, age 49