Monday, March 9, 2009

Slasher: Origins

Sounds like a bad horror-prequel, doesn't it? I guess in a way it is.

After I posted Titans of Slash, someone said to me "Ok, hold up there a sec. You start us off with Psycho then leave us hanging!" I sure as heck don't wanna do that, so let's have a look.

Although some say Slasher movies had earlier origins, there's no arguing that Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) is the one that popularized the genre. Somewhat inspired by earlier murder mystery horror, such as House On Haunted Hill (1959), Psycho must have been one of the first to portray violent murders. This movie itself inspired much of the following wave of films depicting graphic killing.

Now, about the movie itself: it was simply amazing. And I'm not just saying that because everyone else does. There's a reason why it's considered Hitchcock's greatest film.

To the edge of my seat did it take me? Yes, oh yes indeed.

What first struck me as remarkable was how old it didn't seem. You heard me right. Many movies of that time, as well as those for a long while afterward, have a certain feel to them. Maybe it's just for us looking back from the modern age, but usually you feel like your watching peopel act in older films. The cast of Psycho did not act. It lived. Particularly the lead. Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates was so genuine that he stood out from the other actors (who were also very good) and seemed to be in a completely different world, a real world. The filming was smooth. The movie was more at ease (especially for one that makes you so uneasy) and natural than it's peers, adding even more to it's unreal reality.

Now, this movie doesn't tote high body-count that the slashers of today aim for. And sorry gore-lovers, but though it was considered extremely violent for it's time, it's nothing like what we see in ours (though it was still fairly brutal). That's okay, it doesn't need any of that. The suspense alone is enough. And when the violence comes, it is fast and relentless, catching you off-guard even when you know it's coming.
(Mrs. Bates is one scary mother'.)

Definitely worth the watch, even if you hate old movies. It also spawned three sequels, though I haven't seen them. It seems that all three were generously received by fans. Though they do not measure up to the original, they were considered decent enough films each on their own. Perkins came back to play Norman in each one, though they were all made many years after the original (in '83, '86, and '90).

And finally, in '98 they did a remake. A shot-for-shot remake. No, it didn't exchange punches with the original, it was just almost an exact reenactment of the '60 version. The only differences? The actors (and acting), modernization, and length. Overall, it wasn't as good as the original, but it's decent enough if it's your first time seeing any version (like it was for me). As a reviewer on IMDB going by bob the moo said, "So-so, until you compare it to the original - then it's poor." Though I enjoyed it plenty, I have to agree.

First of all, most of the scenes were longer than in the original. Not much, sometimes only by seconds. Did that add to the movie? Half the time it added a bit more character to what was already there, and in the other half it was just unnecessary drag. The modernization didn't change much; it took place in a different year, monetary amounts were different, and a few expressions were updated slightly. They tried to make it seem like a '60s movie with their filming and sadly all that accomplished was a distracting conflict of style for the viewer.

Three of the five characters of interest were portrayed by actors that seemed completely uninspired and lifeless. Anne Heche had the same neutral look on her face for most of her scenes, and Julianne Moore and Viggo Mortensen (more like Riggo Mortissen) seemed bored out of their minds. I felt like I could have gotten more life out of a blank wall in an invisible room that doesn't exist. William Macy, however, held up his character well enough. Vince Vaughn, in the leading role of Norman Bates, did a disarmingly good job. I don't know about you guys, but this was a completely different role for Vaughn than I've ever seen him do, and his acting matched the unusualness. How did he measure up to Perkins? Well, his was a different Norman Bates. Vaughn's version was more socially awkward and obviously disturbed, while Perkins' just seemed like a polite shy young man. I admit I liked Perkins' Bates better, but there was nothing wrong with Vaughn's. In fact, I'd watch the remake again if only to see Bates in that different light.

Last note of interest: I couldn't help but notice that at times, Perkins (right) reminded me a bit of Christian Bale(left). What do you think? Interestingly, Bale starred in a film called American Psycho as Patrick Bateman. We know that the name is a tribute to Psycho, but what about the actor choice? Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.


  1. As in you think Norman Bates is like the actor, Christian Bale? Are you trying to make a crack about his mother and sister fiasco?? I think Bale is fabulous. He made me like action movies. And just so you know you have managed to insult two of my favourite actors in this post (Bale and Mortensen). Boo on you, but yay for the bashing!

  2. Hehe, actually I just meant their physical looks. Not a negative comment. Sometimes Perkins turned around in the movie and gave what I thought looked like a very Balesque frown. :D

    Although I stand by my bash of Mortensen. :P
    I've also enjoyed him in tons of movies (Eastern Promises, History of Violence, Hidalgo, Lord of the Rings, etc), but I think he was completely boring and replaceable in this one. :)