Scream Horror Magazine

CATASTROPHE TO CULT CLASSIC: 25 YEARS OF GUS VAN SANT’S “PSYCHO”

Posted on: December 21st, 2023

“We all go a little mad sometimes…”

That’s certainly what the world thought when it was announced in 1998 that acclaimed filmmaker Gus Van Sant would be remaking Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.

The was one prevailing question… why? Most believed Hitchcock’s film was still as effective almost four decades later and there was little point to retelling the story. This view strengthened when it was further explained that Van Sant would be creating a remake in every sense of the word, recreating Psycho shot-for-shot.

Predictably, when the film premiered it was met with scorn. Everything was criticised, from the casting choices to the film’s glaringly garish colour scheme. On a bloated budget of $30 million, Van Sant’s offering failed to turn a profit and lit up the 2000 Razzie Awards.

Written off as a flop and regarded as an embarrassment for years, it was assumed 1998’s Psycho would be forgotten to the mists of time. However, we’re here 25 years later commemorating a quarter century of endurance, so what changed?

Primarily, the cinematic landscape has changed a great deal from Psycho’s 1999 debut. Now remakes are far more common, with every major horror property receiving one during the remake trend of the 2000’s. Now Van Sant’s film is seen as ahead of its time in that respect, both with the remake concept, and the sheer courage the project displayed tackling an undisputed horror classic.

Secondly, with hindsight, Van Sant’s film has since gained appreciation for its casting choices, something it was lambasted for upon release. Whilst it was easy to do at the time, as the cast was a “who’s who” of popular actors, as their careers have endured over the years, they have found their niche as performers. So, Psycho stands as a sort of time capsule in which they tried something different. The best examples are Vince Vaughn and the late Anne Heche. Now Vaughn is the quirky rom-com best friend foil, so seeing him tackle a role as daunting as Norman Bates is rather impressive in hindsight. Similarly, Heche brought her signature brand of quirky performance to the role of Marion Crane, and has earned a place in audience’s hearts through the years for bringing an entirely different personality to the character than that of Janet Leigh.

The garish colour scheme has also become somewhat of a calling card for Van Sant’s Psycho, now appreciated for its bizarre other-worldly effect and giving the audience visuals that are certainly never dull.

So, it may have taken 25 years, but it’s safe to say that Gus Van Sant’s Psycho is no longer the butt of the remake joke. Now seen as more of an ambitious passion project, it has gained appreciation for the obvious heart and soul put in by all involved.

It takes a lot of determination and staying power to win over an audience, and over the past 25 years, Gus Van Sant’s Psycho has proved to have both. Happy 25th anniversary!

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