I'm not so sour on the idea of remakes. Sure, when it gets to the point where studios are cranking out Prom Night and Last House On The Left all over again, we've reached the saturation point. But in deft hands, an old idea can ride a fresh wave into an all new decade (see Rio Bravo into John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13).
But Gus Van Sant's remake of Psycho is a whole other beast. The cult director wanted to go beyond basic homage to create a straight-up color duplicate of the Hitchcock original. Psycho (1998) is touted as a shot-for-shot remake, but it's not... scene-for-scene is more accurate. I was prepared to see identical camera movements, framing, and set design, but nope. If Van Sant would have gone to these lengths, his Psycho-remix could've truly been the obsessive, crazed, labor of love that it claims to be.
The effort isn't without merit, though. Psycho '98 looks great, and the first 20 minutes glow with an adorable and brilliant love of movies. Plus, the intentional green screening and retro costuming don't come off as misguided attempts at authenticity (see the overrated Far From Heaven for that...), but as elements that Van Sant, and cinematographer Christopher Doyle, simply think look good.
But, in total, Psycho '98 is a failure. Van Sant seems to become bored with the experiment as the film wears on. A sense of laziness settles in amongst the bland acting (to be fair, I can't imagine it's easy filling Anthony Perkin's shoes). You know things have gone off the rails when Norman (Vince Vaughn) starts audibly masturbating while eyeing Marion Crane (Anne Heche) through the peep hole. In the original, a close-up of Norman's eye was devious enough. Here, seeing Vince Vaughn's eyes get lazy as he blows one is just too much... but, as my wife said, "well, it is a Gus Van Sant movie".