PSYCHO. (1998) THE RE-MAKE REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

PSYCHO: THE RE-MAKE. (1998) BASED ON THE BOOK BY ROBERT BLOCH AND THE 1960 FILM BY ALFRED HITCHCOCK.

DIRECTED BY GUS VAN SANT. SCREENPLAY BY JOSEPH STEFANO. MUSIC BY BERNARD HERRMANN, DANNY ELFMAN AND STEVE BARTEK.

STARRING ANNE HECHE, VINCE VAUGHN, VIGGO MORTENSEN, JULIANNE MOORE, RITA WILSON AND WILLIAM H. MACY.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I wasn’t expecting to like this more or less scene-for-scene re-make of Alfred Hitchcock’s magnificent, disturbing and ground-breaking horror picture of 1960, but as it turned out, I really enjoyed it. While still acknowledging, naturally, that it isn’t and never could be as good as the original masterpiece which inspired it. Now that we’ve got that little disclaimer out of the way, lol, we can get down to appreciating PSYCHO: THE RE-MAKE for what it is; a film in its own right.

Anne Heche, an actress who co-starred in genuinely the worst film I’ve ever seen in my life, CATFIGHT with Sandra Oh in 2016, is actually pretty good as Marion Crane, the woman who steals $400,000 dollars from her boss with the intention of starting a new life with her currently impoverished hardware store owner boyfriend, Sam Loomis.

She plays Marion as a sweeter, softer person than the Marion played by Janet Leigh in 1960. That Janet was a bit cold, a bit self-righteous, a bit judgemental. Marion in the re-make is just softer all round, a bit less sure of herself, maybe even (Heresy! Heresy!) a bit more likeable.

Vince Vaughn, the beefcake actor whom you’re probably more used to seeing in throwaway comedies such as OLD SCHOOL, DODGEBALL: A TRUE UNDERDOG STORY, WEDDING CRASHERS and FRED CLAUS, is surprisingly good as Norman Bates, the sexually deviant and mentally deranged motel owner who takes a murderous shine to Marion Crane as she flees from her old life.

He’s got the sweetie-guzzling thing going on, he defends his abusive mother to the hilt and won’t hear of having her put away ‘someplace,’ and he’s no match for the clever questioning of William H. Macy as the private dick with the greatest name ever dreamed up by a writer, Milton Arbogast.

The character of Milton Arbogast here is just perfect, although he reminds me of no-one so much as Lyle Lanley, the character from THE SIMPSONS who brings the ill-fated Monorail to Springfield.

‘I’ll show you my idea. I give you the Springfield Monorail! I’ve sold monorails to Brockway, Ogdenville, and North Haverbrook, and, by gum, it put them on the map! Well, sir, there’s nothin’ on Earth like a genuine bona-fide electrified six-car monorail!’ He’s even got the hat-flipping down to a T, and his death (come on, it’s a sixty year old film, if you haven’t seen it by now, it’s not my fault, lol!) is very well done, and reverently reminiscent of the way Hitchcock did it in 1960.

I love that the film, even though it’s set in 1998, still manages to keep the worst excesses of the modern world and modern technology at bay for the viewer. No-one’s yakking away on a cellphone, for one thing, for which I was immensely grateful. The colours are the lovely pink and blue pastels of a softer, gentler era and the clothes everyone’s wearing all have such a retro ‘Sixties vibe that we could actually be in that era and not modern times.

The only harsh, jarring note here is, sadly, Julianne Moore as Lila Crane, Marion’s sister who comes to Fairvale to look for her after she hops it with the money. I say ‘sadly’ because I do really like Julianne Moore as an actress. However, here she plays Lila all wrong.

She plays her too tough, too militant, too shouty, too raving feminist. She plays her like she plays FBI Agent Clarice Starling in HANNIBAL in 2001, like she’s a cop on a drugs raid and she’s taking no bullshit from her suspects.

She strides into a place as if she should be pointing a gun into it ahead of herself, and even her clothes are wrong. They’re too bloody moderns, as Mr. Khan says in EAST IS EAST (1999).

Lila Crane is not a ball-breaking FBI agent. She’s a woman who would look and dress and speak similarly to her missing sister. Julianne Moore’s Lila Crane looks like she should be wearing combats, rolling across a floor pointing a gun and screaming ‘Freeze, motherfuckers!’ at a den of Colombian druglords. It’s the one false note in a film that otherwise succeeds quite well in creating a world that blurs the lines between the ‘Sixties of Hitchcock’s film and modern times.

I loved the highway-cop-with-the-sunglasses bit. He’s almost identical to the cop from the original film. Mumbly Viggo Mortensen as Marion’s lover, Sam Loomis, doesn’t contribute much besides a gratuitous butt-shot, and Old Mother Bates was never a blonde bombshell, but other than that and the Julianne Moore thing, and the fact that the famous shower scene was possibly less impactful, I’ve no complaints about the film, lol. It received mostly negative reviews, but I enjoyed watching it, so there. Give it a whirl if you haven’t already seen it. You might enjoy it.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.

DAUGHTER OF DARKNESS. (1990) A HORROR FILM REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

daughter trio

DAUGHTER OF DARKNESS. (1990) DIRECTED BY STUART GORDON. STARRING ANTHONY PERKINS, MIA SARA, ROBERT REYNOLDS AND JACK COLEMAN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘They don’t have fangs; they have a thing with their tongue…!’

This is definitely a made-for-television movie because you can see where the breaks slot in, lol. It’s a strange little film but it had its attractions for me, in the form of Anthony Perkins from PSYCHO (1960) and a Romanian backdrop, which will always draw me in. (That whole little-known Transylvania-Dracula connection, don’t you know?)

Mia Sara plays the lead role of Catherine here. She looks very similar to the actress Alyssa Milano (WHO’S THE BOSS?, CASUALTIES OF LOVE: THE ‘LONG ISLAND LOLITA’ STORY), and for much of the movie I forgot that she wasn’t, if you get me. Catherine is an American teacher who comes to Romania in search of the father she never knew, a chap called Paul Alexandre.

She feels able to do it now because her mother has just died, and she’s been having strange- and strangely gothic- dreams about her father and what she thinks might have happened to him. All her dreams seem to be urging her to go to Romania and find out the truth about him.

Paul impregnated Catherine’s mother twenty or so years ago, then disappeared without a trace. I see nothing unusual about this behaviour. Irish guys do this literally all the time, which is why Ireland has such a high percentage of single-parent families on their books. Yes, I know. Miaow…! Catherine, however, clearly has a higher opinion of human nature than I do and she thinks it means that her Pops became a victim of foul play in a police state, God bless her innocence.

So she comes to Nikolae Ceausescu’s Romania, a dictatorship where the Secret Police run the show and everyone who comes into the country can be suspected of spying. Catherine is looking for a man who disappeared without a trace donkeys’ years ago, and all she has to assist her in her search are an old faded photograph of him and a fancy pendant of a gold dragon set in a cross, which her father gave to her mother. So the sperm wasn’t his only legacy then, lol.

Catherine is a friendly, personable and beautiful young woman, so it’s not long before she has enlisted some human resources as well, in the form of madcap Romanian taxi driver Max and an attractive young diplomat from the American Embassy called Jack Devlin who, despite his single-minded devotion to career advancement, just can’t resist the pretty face of this particular damsel in distress.

Devlin is played by Jack Coleman and, if you think you know him from somewhere, you do. He played Steven Carrington on soap opera DYNASTY from 1982-1988, his character being one of the earliest gay characters in mainstream American television. DYNASTY, THE COLBYS, DALLAS and FALCON CREST were HUMONGOUS here in Ireland in the ’80s. They brought us the glamour, the back-stabbing and the bed-hopping our own shows were sadly lacking at this time, lol.

It’s a good thing that Catherine is amassing a little team of supporters around her. She’ll need it when she unwittingly comes in contact with the handsome Romanian man Grigore and his little team of vampires (yes, this is a vampire film!), who are currently waging a war against their leader because he won’t do things the way they want him to. Have you guessed who the lead vampire could possibly be yet…? Heh-heh-heh.

Grigore’s sexy ’80s vampires, with their fabulous big dyed blonde ’80s hair and ’80s leather and denim-style outfits- and that’s just the blokes!- all live underground in an abandoned church-type structure, with a nightclub at street level as their cover. Their cult is dying out because the men who hunt them down can pick them off easily while they are sleeping during the day, which of course, as vampires, they are obliged to do. To their enemies, therefore, they are no more than sitting ducks.

If only the vampires didn’t have to fear daylight and could strut coolly about in it like the Bee Gees in that great video for ‘Staying Alive,’ they could overcome their attackers and rule the world. Grigore thinks that if he could only mate with Catherine and have a child with her, that half-human, half-vampire offspring could save the endangered race of vampires known as the Cyprians.

One man is determined to save Catherine from this awful fate, or two men, if you count the diplomat, Jack Devlin. Now, I’d happily have vampire sex with Grigore myself, as he’s bleedin’ gorgeous, but Catherine is pure and innocent and goody-goody and anyway, she’s repulsed by the idea and begs Grigore repeatedly not to rape her.

Can the one person who’s supposed to protect and help Catherine in her hour of need come through for her, even if he has to be roasted half to death while still alive first? Or will the handsome ’80s rock star lookalike Grigore get to her first and fertilise her eggs with his little toy soldiers…? I’d take either option myself, as I’ve already mentioned, but I think Catherine might be saving her eggs for someone special, so I guess we’d better hope that they- the eggs!- make it out of Romania unfertilised, lol.

Anthony A boy’s best friend is his mother Perkins is marvellously tragic and sinister here at the same time. He still looks so good, nearly thirty years after he played Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s game-changing horror movie PSYCHO. He hasn’t put on any weight or lost his hair and he still looks handsome.

I’ve always quite fancied him, but I could never have married him or slept with him or anything like that. You know that old Rita Hayworth quote about the men she met going to bed with Gilda, her famous screen character, and waking up with her, Rita, and being disappointed about it, the ingrates?

Well, I still think that that’s a pretty good deal, but, applying the quote to Anthony Perkins, I’d be much too scared of going to bed with Norman and waking up with Mother. That film scared the Christ outta me when I was a young ‘un and it’s never lost its power to scare me. Donkeys’ years later, Anthony Perkins’s performance as both characters is as effective as it ever was. Given a choice, I’d take my chances with the vampires, ta…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

DERANGED. (1974) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

deranged mary table

DERANGED… THE CONFESSIONS OF A NECROPHILE. (1974) AN AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL FILM. DIRECTED BY JEFF GILLEN AND ALAN ORMSBY. WRITTEN BY ALAN ORMSBY. PRODUCED BY TOM KARR. SPECIAL EFFECTS BY TOM SAVINI.

STARRING ROBERTS BLOSSOM, COSETTE LEE, LESLIE CARLSON, MARIAN WALDMAN, MICKI MOORE, ROBERT WARNER, MARCIA DIAMOND, BRIAN SMEAGLE AND PAT ORR.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘The wages of sin are gonorrhea, syphilis and death. Remember that, boy!’

Amanda Cobb, Ezra’s Mother.

This film is loosely based on the story of real-life American boogeyman and murderer Ed Gein (1906-1984), although in this film he’s called Ezra Cobb for some reason. Maybe because the real Ed Gein was still alive at this time, I don’t know what the deal is with that.

Ed Gein, known as the Butcher of Plainfield, was the Wisconsin farmer-cum-handyman who achieved permanent notoriety when he was found to have peopled his house with the mutilated corpses of women, and mostly elderly women at that, after his mother’s death in 1945 at the age of sixty-seven.

He was the inspiration for Robert Bloch’s horror novel PSYCHO, which in turn went on to become Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous movie PSYCHO in 1960. Iconic weirdo Norman Bates (‘A boy’s best friend is his mother’) was probably the first cinema character to portray what might happen when a fatherless boy with an uber-domineering mother who gives him some very messed-up ideas about women and sex is abandoned in death by that mother. Unable to cope with her very significant loss, his mind gives way and he devises a method that ensures that he can hold onto her forever. If a few other women are sacrificed along the way, well sure, what harm?

The bonkers Ed Gein was also the inspiration behind the character Leatherface in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) and the character Buffalo Bill in the 1991 smash hit movie THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, which introduced the character of Hannibal ‘the Cannibal’ Lecter to the world, played so immaculately and memorably by Anthony Hopkins.

The Ezra Cobb in DERANGED is heavily emotionally attached to his own extremely domineering, deeply religious mother, Amanda Cobb. She’s bedridden and about to die when we meet her, but her venomous mouth has lost none of its power to shock and scare the child of her loins.

With her last breath, she’s telling her virgin son Ezra, who’s fifty if he’s a day, to watch out for the filthy, disease-ridden gold-digging whores who will flock to him now he’s such an eligible bachelor, with his own farm and a house to go with it and no doubt a few bucks in the bank as well. She’s filled Ezra so full of misogynistic poison that it’s a wonder he’s not scared off women for life.

He misses his mother so much that, one night, he imagines that he hears her calling to him from the grave. ‘Bring me home, boy! It’s cold and dark down here! Bring me home, I tell you!’ It’s his own voice mouthing the words but he thinks it’s his mother talking to him. Off he drives to the cemetery to dig her up, as happy as Larry once he gets her home and back in her own nice warm bed.

Over the coming weeks and months, he tries to patch her up with bits and pieces of animal skin, but it’s not long before he realises that human skin would work so much better for this purpose. What to do, what to do…?

When he hears about the recent death of his old Sunday-School teacher Mrs. Johnson, he digs her up, decapitates her gruesomely and uses her ancient facial skin to patch up his old Ma’s disintegrating kisser. The results, hideous beyond belief to the viewer, are mighty pleasing to Ezra Cobb, whom we can already see is completely and utterly mad.

His meeting with the equally bonkers Maureen Selby- is this what it sounds like when doves cry…?- leads to death and horror for poor lonely Maureen. And in front of her Herbert’s lovely photo, too! What in the wide world are things coming to?

The fate of attractive barmaid Mary Ransom is much more frightening. Ezra meets her in a bar and begins immediately to fixate on her. He cunningly slashes Mary’s tyres in secret one night so that she’s obliged to take a lift home with him.

This proves that his abduction of Mary is no spur-of-the-moment action but very much a premeditated one. What it proves legally I don’t know, but the educationally backwards and even mentally retarded Ezra can be as sly as a fox when pursuing his own twisted ends.

When the stunning Mary, described unflatteringly by the narrative voice-over as ‘thirty-four and already over the hill,’ follows Ezra into his isolated farmhouse and sees the little gathering of ‘women’ waiting to receive her in the parlour, it’s like the scene in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE where the screaming girl meets Leatherface’s ‘family.’ It’s just horrible. Poor Mary, initially brought here to be Ezra’s ‘bride’ rather than just another ‘companion’ for Ma Cobb, goes into shock. 

Major spoiler alert here now, folks. If she’d known as she clocked in for work at the bar that night that, before the night was over, she’d be beaten to death with a human thigh-bone that she’d earlier seen being used as a drum stick by a transvestite freak wearing a titty-vest made of human skin and real titties, she might well have called in sick.

It’s funny when Ezra admits openly to his one friend, Harlan Kootz, that he’s got all the missing women up at his place. Harlan, who’s known Ezra since they were schoolboys together and who regards him as a harmless simpleton who does a bit of work around his- Harlan’s- place, just laughs and then berates Ezra for telling fairy stories. Well, he can’t say he wasn’t forewarned.

What happens to pretty little Sally-Mae, the high school girlfriend of Harlan’s son Brad, mirrors closely the fate of the real-life victim of Ed Gein’s, poor old Beatrice Wordern, whose naked body was found hanging upside-down in the Gein barn, gutted like a deer. Jesus wept.

It’s apparently the closest the film gets to reflecting the real-life murderous career of Ed Gein, who’s today known as a serial killer and serial defiler of the dead. Ezra doesn’t have sex with any of the corpses in DERANGED although Ed Gein is very much known as a man who liked a nice bit of necrophilia.

Still, we must remember that the word ‘necrophilia’ can have two meanings. Yes, it means having sex with corpses (Ted Bundy definitely did this, until the corpses became too discomposed for comfort), but it can also mean someone who is obsessed with death, corpses and cemeteries. Both Ed Gein and Ezra Cobb fit this bill.

Apparently, Ed Gein denied having sex with any of his corpses but only because they ‘smelled too bad.’ Would he have had sex with them then if they’d smelled as fragrant as a lily-of-the-valley Christmas bath-set? Is that what he’s saying?

I read in a biography of Ed Gein’s that he was as happy as a sandboy to be carted off to a state mental institution for the remainder of his life for his crimes. He never gave the authorities there a lick of trouble. I can kind of understand why.

He had company there and people who spoke kindly to him, it was clean and presumably warm and he would have been given three square meals a day. A far cry from the cold, dirty, cluttered isolated charnel-house where he lived alone with his ‘Mother’ and her ‘friends.’ I can’t say I really blame him. Anything’s better than that, even for a man like Ed Gein.

What a kick in the knickers Ed must have been for the Plainfield Tourist Board all the same. They can have as much good hunting (for shame!) and lovely picturesque snow there as they please, but will Plainfield ever be known for anything but being the home of the man who, by digging up his dead mother and preserving her corpse, simultaneously dug his way right into the annals of crime history and also into the very pysche of the American people?

You know what, I bet there are mothers in Plainfield today who still use old Ed as the boogeyman to fractious children. ‘Hush up now and get to sleep, you pesky young’uns, or Ed Gein will come and cart you away and make a lampshade out of you!’ Aw. It’s good to know he’s useful for something.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor