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By Re-creating Instead of Remaking Psycho, Gus Van Sant Stands Alone

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Director Gus Van Sant’s now ten-year-old version of Psycho isn’t really a remake. It’s a re-creation. The differences between it and the 1968 Hitchcock classic are superficial (new clothing, a few extra cutaways). Van Sant said his intention was to update — not completely retool — the movie for a new audience: “It was like staging a contemporary production of a classic play, while remaining true to the original.”

The critics were less than impressed. Roger Ebert called the film “an invaluable experiment in the theory of cinema, because it demonstrates that a shot-by-shot remake is pointless.” Yet Ebert may have missed the point: In this one-of-a-kind homage, Van Sant shows how the exact same lines and camera angles will sometimes summon the exact same feelings when performed by different actors under a different director’s guidance. Watch Van Sant’s take on the immortal shower sequence with this in mind.

Van Sant adds the sorts of details that everyone imagined while watching the original. Marion’s blood is a vivid red — nearly glowing — against the white porcelain. Her fingernails are the same shade, and they command attention as she slaps her hand against the tile or clutches at the shower curtain. Hitchcock shows her lifeless eyes, but Van Sant presents her pupils dilating as she’s killed.

He too created a Psycho fit for our worst nightmares. Not bad for a copycat.

For a full schedule of Psycho on AMC, click here.

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