Psycho (1960 & 1998) – Halloween Movie of the Week 10/18/2013

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This week’s Halloween movie of the week is a twofer! I’ve never seen Alfred Hitchcock’s classic so I thought it would be perfect for the column. Just for fun I watched the remake as well which was, well, it was. More thoughts after the jump…

PSYCHO (1960) –

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Let’s start with the good version. Last year I read the book so I could then watch the movie, but being a master procrastinator I never got around to it.

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The book is a fun, quick read and the movie is quite faithful to it.

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The copy I read was a second-hand edition that somebody had made notes in. The margins are filled with comments on the subtle differences between the movie and the book.

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To add to the confusion this book is a copy that came out around the release of the remake, so I wonder if this person was only interested in that version?

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All that aside, I feel that Hitch’s classic is one of the few movies I can safely say is better than the book. I really liked the acting, and was very surprised by Anthony Perkins’ performance. I was expecting to not like him, mostly because I’ve never seen him in anything I assumed that he wasn’t any good. He had a very casual and subtle performance that made it easy to believe that he was that quiet neighbor that was secretly crazy.

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The iconic shower scene I had watched many times on t.v. in clips and specials but had never seen in context or in its entirety. It is quite risqué for it’s time and very well done. I know that the knife doesn’t land at all, my brain knows it, my eyes know it, but you still feel the slashes, very impressive.

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The final hour or so of the movie gets by on the shoulders of Anthony Perkins and his quiet job of keeping it together. The other actors are pretty interchangeable, once “Norman Bates” becomes the focus nobody else is interesting. The only other character that is worth watching has been killed off. Although I did enjoy Patricia Hitchcock(Alfred’s daughter) as “Marion Crane’s” fellow office worker, with a few lines she stole the scene.

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The big reveal at the end is obviously no secret to me, even if I hadn’t read the book everybody knows what happens, I’ve probably known it since I was 8 years old. It still is a disturbing image and the use of an actress to do the voice makes it even creepier. The movie reserves the right to be one of the greats, not as great as “Vertigo”, but the best Halloween movie out all of Hitchcock’s oeuvre.

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PSYCHO (1998)

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Okay, let’s get this over with quick. I didn’t hate it but boy is it pointless. An exercise in clout more than art, the movie feels extraneous. It exists only because Gus Van Sant wanted it to exist. I remember being very excited to see it when it came out, I was in middle school at the time. It was released around my birthday and for some reason really wanted to watch it. Something happened (bad grades or bad behavior) and I was forbidden from watching it, luckily the movie had such a backlash that my desire subsided.

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The modern cast feels stilted by being forced to recite the same lines in a modern context. Anne Heche is trying to do a few things differently, trying is the keyword there. Somehow only Julianne Moore (out of nowhere) manages to transcend this making the character of “Lila Crane” interesting and likable which is probably the only good thing I can say about this movie.

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Not that it’s a bad movie, it’s just hard to call this a movie. It’s like a very long, very unfunny, parody sketch. Or a really well done parody porn without any sex? You can’t really qualify it as anything other than an experiment in extreme vanity. That the movie is dedicated to the memory of Alfred Hitchcock is an insult.

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I must mention Vince Vaughn’s performance, to think that we lived in a time where he would even be considered for such a role boggles the mind! He does an okay job, putting the casual nature of the character a little bit into overdrive with way too much laughing. I mean his laughing not my laughing, that happens when I see him in a wig. He also has a swishy, effeminate air to him that seems like too obvious of a choice and diminishes his oddness by making him overtly odd. Not recommended unless you have an extreme curiosity, which can be dangerous.

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Anybody like the remake? Really?

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