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Danny Elfman’s Successful Psycho Remix Shows a Light Touch

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When working on a new version of an established movie masterpiece, trotting out a classic score can provide a spark of recognition for the audience. Take, for example, Gus Van Sant’s Psycho. When he needed to resurrect and reinterpret Bernard Herrmann’s soundtrack from the original Psycho , it was only natural to put Danny Elfman on the job: the composer was already famous for his gorgeously dark work in Tim Burton’s movies, and he’s a self-professed fan of Herrmann’s compositions.

Whether or not fans of Hitchcock’s version liked what they saw, one thing is certain — the music in Van Sant’s remake is virtually identical to that of the original. The nerve-racking score, made up entirely of stringed instruments, was pivotal in helping Van Sant overcome hostile reactions from purists. The shower scene, for example, while faithful to the original, contained distracting differences: a new actress, a new curtain, and different vivid colors (especially when the blood begins to fly). Elfman’s music smoothed out the pesky quirks in order that audiences could enjoy their collective nostalgia. Without the soundtrack to bridge the gap, the movie would have been an even more reviled imitation.

For a full schedule of Van Sant’s Psycho on AMC, click here.

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