Gus Van Sant’s oddball, shot-for-shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 classic, Psycho follows Anne Heche’s Marion Crane as she impulsively steals $400,000 from her boss (Rance Howard’s Mr. Lowery) and makes a quick beeline out of the city – with the narrative detailing Marion’s fateful exploits after her arrival at a roadside motel run by Vince Vaughn’s Norman Bates. There’s ultimately little doubt that Psycho fares best during its Marion Crane-focused opening stretch, as filmmaker Gus Van Sant mines an impressive amount of suspense from this portion of the picture – with Heche’s better-than-expected (and thoroughly sympathetic) performance heightening the decidedly tense atmosphere. And although Van Sant does an effective job of generally capturing the feel and tone of Hitchcock’s obviously superior original, Psycho progresses into a midsection that doesn’t entirely work, somehow, and lacks the intensity that one might’ve expected – which ensures that certain moments designed to pack a visceral punch aren’t able to do so, ultimately. (This includes, of course, the fate of William H. Macy’s Milton Arbogast.) Vaughn’s decent yet fairly underwhelming turn as the iconic Norman Bates surely plays a key role in the movie’s less-than-successful execution, while Van Sant’s decision to pepper the proceedings with off-kilter elements ultimately adds little to the movie as a whole (ie the infamous shower sequence contains a couple of baffling inserts that only detract from its inherent effectiveness). The end result is a cinematic experiment that has its moments, certainly, but ultimately doesn’t hold a candle to its vastly-superior inspiration, which does leave the viewer wondering exactly what Van Sant set out to accomplish when he embarked on this ill-fated journey.
**1/2 out of ****