Archive for Robert Bloch

Psycho (1998) Review

Posted in Psycho (1998) with tags , , , , , , on October 8, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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PSYCHO 1998

*** Out of 5

Tagline- Check In. Unpack. Relax. Take a Shower

Release Date- December 4th, 1998

Running Time- 102-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Joseph Stefano (Novel- Peter Bloch)

Director- Gus Van Sant

Starring- Vince Vaughn, Anne Heche, Julianne Moore, Viggo Mortensen with William H. Macey and Robert Forster

Released in 1998 Psycho is pretty much a shot for shot remake of the original and often gets very subpar reviews. Even though I’m not exactly a fan of the Psycho remake I also feel the film gets a little too much hate, which is easy to understand, but a lot of people bash the film for being a shot for shot remake, but the remake of Night of the Living Dead gets a lot more respect, but I guess Tom Savini being a horror legend people are more forgiving and if someone like say John Carpenter directed this I think it might get less hate. However with that said one has to wonder why Psycho was a shot for shot remake with very little added to it. What’s the point of remaking a film if you’re gonna make the same exact movie? It’s tough to judge Psycho as its own film since its the same as the original, but despite being identical the films couldn’t be anymore different in terms of suspense. The Psycho remake lacks everything that made the original such a masterpiece despite being identical.

Part of the problem with remaking Psycho is everybody knows the story of Norman Bates regardless of if you’ve seen the film or not. By right Norman really isn’t the villain while he’s mentally disturbed he has a split personality and the only thing Norman was guiltily of is covering up a crime. But everybody knows the story and the twist and that’s even ignoring the sequels. Psycho wasn’t some small cult film it was a massive success and one of the most influential films ever made. The twist that Norman is Mother may have shocked audiences in 1960, but as of 1998 when the remake came out it was common knowledge, which for me is another strike against the film. While this was also the case in the novel, but it wasn’t a huge success like the film, which helped make the 1960 version a shocker. The only way to avoid that in the remake would be to put a twist on things and even if it was a great twist it would still be a total failure. Watching the remake you already know exactly what’s gonna happen before it does. I think if anything that’s the biggest problem with the remake since the twist is already known before you even sit down to watch it and changing the twist would completely ruin the film as well. Really no matter what you do you’re destined to fail.

The screenplay was written by Joseph Stefano who also wrote the original film and all he really does is slightly alter some dialogue here and there as the script is nearly identical to his script for the original and I’m guessing as a writer this was Stefano’s easiest payday. The changes made to the script really have no impact whatsoever and I really can’t see any other reason for writing this other than for the money. While the novel by Robert Bloch and the 1960 film are for the most part the same, but it does feature a couple of scenes not in the original and a couple of scenes that are played out a bit differently and I think Stefano may have been better off going in that direction and while the end result would be pretty much the same film it would at least offer a couple of differences.

At one point in his career director Gus Van Sant was better known for his Indie films, but in 1997 with the release of Good Will Hunting he hit the mainstream as the film was a blockbuster hit and got nominated for several Oscars including best picture, best director, best actor and supporting actress with wins for best screenplay and supporting actor and as great of a film as Titanic was I felt than and now Good Will Hunting deserved the best picture win and Van Sant best director. Despite not winning being nominated opens a lot of doors in Hollywood and one has to wonder why with the massive success of Good Will Hunting and with all the projects out there for him why would Gus Van Sant decide to not only remake Psycho, but make an exact copy only with a new cast and in color. The pacing of the film is fairly decent and while it never comes close to matching the original at anytime in any area I can’t say I was ever bored with the remake. Like I said despite being a copy of the original it’s also a totally different film in terms of suspense. I really have no idea why Gus Van Sant it would be a good idea to not only remake Psycho, but do a shot for shot remake. The shower scene Van Sant puts a bit of a twist on it visually at least and it’s a complete failure compared to the original; it lacks the suspense and excitement of the original and Van Sant would have been better served making it a gore scene. It’s not so much it was bad and perhaps if not for the original it wouldn’t be so bad, but there is an original and this sure fails compared to it.

Norman in the original played by Anthony Perkins is quite odd, socially awkward and even a little child like in some ways, whereas Vince Vaughn basically for the most part copies Perkins, but he also comes across as sort of an idiot and simple minded. While I haven’t seen a lot of Vince Vaughn’s work I’ve see enough to find him a good actor, but here he was the wrong choice for Norman. Even ignoring Anthony Perkins, Vaughn still isn’t very good in the role. His scenes with Anne Heche in the parlor and later with Arbogast in the office are awkward and not in the way they were meant to be. He’s not terrible I guess, but wasn’t the right choice and compared to Perkins the performance is a failure. Rest of the cast is ok with cameos from James LeGros (Phantasm II) and James Remar (Warriors) and Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers) with bit parts from Robert Forster and Philip Baker Hall, but outside of William H. Macey nobody really stands out and despite greet actors like Viggo Mortensen they’re all rather forgettable. It’s a great cast for the Psycho remake, but they’re al wasted.

Overall the Psycho remake isn’t as bad as it was totally pointless. As much as I love the original Psycho I can avoid a bias view as many films I hold in as high regard as Psycho have also been remade with some of them I hated and others I liked, but this was just pointless and I’m not really sure what anyone was thinking. The film isn’t as bad as reviews you may have read though I cannot defend it from negative reviews since I see where they’re coming from. Psycho isn’t the worst film ever made, but easily one of the most pointless as its a shot for shot remake for 99% of the film. While I didn’t hate it I really sure didn’t love it either.

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Psycho House (1990 Novel) Review

Posted in Psycho House (Novel) with tags , , , on July 3, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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PSYCHO HOUSE

*** Out of 5

Release Date- 1990

Pages- 217

Written by- Robert Bloch

Psycho House is the third part of the Psycho trilogy and in my opinion by far the weakest of the three. With that said though the book is still a decent enough read and only took me a couple of days to finish it. Psycho House isn’t quite the page turner Psycho was or Psycho II. And while the book is a decent read its just never as interesting as the first two novels. Norman isn’t in the book as by this time he’s dead and while he does drive the plot it just didn’t feel right without him. I suppose some of those feelings stem more from the films since in Psycho II (novel) he’s mostly just mentioned with only a few chapters, but difference between Psycho II and Psycho House is the threat of Norman is always present as we have no idea what his fate is. So even if Norman played a minor role it was also vital in a sense it just didn’t seem right without him at all. As I stated in my reviews for the other novels Norman was more or less the same in the original novel and film, but the couple of changes allowed both the film and novel for Psycho II to craft a totally different Norman and have both work well within their media. But different Norman or not it just feels weird without him at all.

It’s been about 30-years since the murder of Mary Crane and 7-years since the events of Psycho II. The Bates house and motel have been rebuilt and is a tourist attraction. Amy Haines is a writer and after her first true crime book was a success she’s now working on a book about Norman Bates, but Fairvale being a small town they don’t take kindly to outsiders and are less than happy about Amy asking all these questions and digging up the past. Right before Amy arrives a young girl is killed in the Bates house and soon more murders begin to happen and soon enough Amy herself ends up getting involved trying to figure out who is picking up where Norman left off.

The opening of the novel is very slasher like and while it has some decent suspense it’s sort of brought down by subpar writing. After the opening chapter the writing begins to improve. While Psycho was a mixture of crime and horror, Psycho II was more horror than anything else. Psycho House sort of goes back to the original in some ways and if anything is more of a detective story with a little bit of horror whereas Psycho mixed both those aspects together. Psycho was interesting in the fact it’s a mystery only we know who the killer is (or thought we did), but everything else is sort of like a mystery even if we know a bit more than the characters that are investigating. Even Psycho II is a mystery maybe more so since we don’t know if Norman is the killer or dead. Psycho House though is much more of a murder mystery and Amy Haines sort of a detective. I liked the idea behind the novel, but at times it just wasn’t very interesting though never really boring either.

Psycho House also sort of goes supernatural as demonic possession is also explored, but this plays a very small role and was just an idea by a demonologist. Its not a major force in the book, but the couple of chapters keep this as an option of being possible. Best way to put it if it turns out that way it wouldn’t be a shocker, but if it doesn’t it won’t feel like a time waster.

What bothers me most about Psycho House is again it had all the right ideas, but yet something wasn’t fully working. Psycho to me is one of the great novels and one of my all time favorites. Psycho II was just as good if not better for most of the book until the final 60 or so pages when the narrative flow gets sloppy. But I still very much enjoyed it and just might make my top 10 novels, but here with Psycho House there really wasn’t much story left and it seems to me due to the success of the first two novels as well as the film series that’s the only reason for Psycho House as it doesn’t have much new to offer the story.

What does work is the return to Fairvale; Psycho II only had a few chapters there as the bulk was in Hollywood and while this worked in the novel it was still a welcome return. Amy was a strong lead character and is likable and helped keep me invested. The rest of the characters are solid and interesting but Bloch just didn’t write an interesting enough of a novel for them to carry it.

Another aspect of the book that does work well is Psycho House does make for a solid mystery. Everyone is a possible suspect and that’s the one thing that managed to keep me intrigued. While the identity of the killer may not be overly shocking, but I was still a bit surprised.

What’s sort of interesting to me is how in a way quality wise the books and films are on the same level. Bloch’s Psycho was excellent and the film a masterpiece. Psycho II both novel and film were also very good. But Psycho III was a clear drop from the first two films and Psycho House the 3rd in the book series was also a major decline. While granted both the film and book of Psycho II were made because of the success of the originals they at least didn’t feel like cash ins the way Psycho III & Psycho House do.

Overall Psycho House was a decent read and only took me a couple of days to read. The plot was strong as were characters and the mystery on who the killer is, but something is still lacking here. My review may not be overly glowing, but it was a good read with the potential for so much more. I think also since I loved the first two so much perhaps my expectations were too high, but in the end while I thought the book was ok it also was very disappointing after the first 2. Psycho House still comes recommend as despite the problems it’s an excellent mystery. If you’ve read the first 2 might as well go for the 3rd and final part.

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Psycho II (1982 Novel) Review

Posted in Psycho II (Novel) with tags , , on July 2, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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PSYCHO II NOVEL

**** Out of 5

Release Date- 1982

Pages- 317

Written by- Robert Bloch

Locked in an insane asylum, Norman Bates manages to escape and murders visiting nuns and steals their van. Along the way Norman picks up a hitchhiker and attacks. Next morning the van is found burnt with two bodies one being one of the nuns and the other believed to be Norman Bates. Norman’s doctor Adam Claiborne finds evidence to believe Norman picked up a hitchhiker and Norman is still alive, but nobody believes him. When Adam learns of a film called Crazy Lady being made based off the Bates murders, Adam believes Norman is heading to Hollywood to stop the production so Adam takes off for Hollywood hoping to stop Norman.

As you can see Psycho II features an entirely different plot than the film version of Psycho II and while the film often gets positive reviews the novel gets mixed reviews. Going into Psycho II I wasn’t sure what to expect, which was how I went into the novel for the original. I really had no expectations for either, but after reading Psycho, which became one of my favorite novels I had to get a copy of Psycho II. I think some of the mixed reviews stem from Norman playing a very small role where as in the films he’s the main character. Like stated the film goes in a totally different direction and I think it was the right move as I’m not certain the novel would have worked as a film.

Book reviews are still new to me so just bare with me as I go over Psycho II.

After Norman escapes he’s only mentioned and his fate isn’t revealed until the end. The lack of Norman might turn off certain people, but works great in contrast to the story. This is also a very different Norman than the films and even the original novel. Norman in the novel Psycho isn’t quite as likable as the film version, but he’s more or less the same. Really the only difference is we get inside his mind and see how messed up he is. Here in Psycho II there is no Mother. Norman has no memory of the murders since his other personality committed them, but here it’s all Norman and Norman is quite insane and evil and even has sex with a dead body! This Norman Bates is quite different than the one in the films and while this Norman Bates may not work in the film it does in the novel. Again as much a like Norman was in the original film and novel they are also just different enough that its believable that Norman is this messed up whereas no way this works in the films.

The only real thing in common between the book and film are Sam and Lila are also married in the book. Neither play a huge part, but Lila isn’t anything like she was in the film version of Psycho II. Here she’s closer to the way she was in the original novel and film. I was really happy they both returned and while they play a bit part it’s a highly effective part.

In many ways this is a satire on Hollywood and a shot at the splatter films that dominated the era this novel came out. It also shows the sleazier side of Hollywood and Bloch’s disgust is quite obvious.

For the good majority of the book Robert Bloch writes a terrific novel and I’d go as far to say I liked it more than the original novel as well as the film version of Psycho II (nothing tops the original film). Bloch crafts a great story as the threat of Norman is always present and Bloch also does a great job of keeping you guessing. Is Norman really dead or is he out there somewhere. The pace of the book was incredible as I couldn’t put it down. While characters aren’t great they are solid enough to carry the book during lulls in the action though I thought Adam was a great lead. However the last 60 or so pages sadly the novel takes a nosedive and the pacing is zapped as it slumps along to the shocking twist.

It’s quite unfortunate Psycho II got so sloppy towards the end with chapters that have no impact on the story, it also jumps around too much with no narrative flow. I was really digging this novel and again was enjoying it more than the first novel, but it got so messy the original novel ended up being the better of the two. And I would also probably give the edge to the film version of Psycho II. However despite the problems don’t let that turn you off as 95% of Psycho II is excellent.

The problems with the final act of the novel are it just feels like filler scenes that while perhaps add to the characters to some degree also could have been removed and nothing would feel like it were missing and we also get some really, really bizarre chapters that have nothing to do with the story.

There is a very bizarre chapter about Paul Morgan who is sort of a washed up actor that’s cast to play Norman. Since Norman would dress as his Mother, Morgan assumed Norman was gay even though he’s been told that isn’t the case, but in attempt to get deeper into the character he goes undercover to a gay brothel of sorts with Hollywood look a like escorts such as Robert Redford, John Travolta and Clint Eastwood. To say this section of the book is odd would be a major understatement. Not only was it really odd, but it also wasn’t needed. In no way does it serve the plot and I’m not really sure what the point of this was. There was zero reason for this chapter as again it has no bearing on the story.

The director of Crazy Lady also has a backstory and like the chapter with Paul Morgan this was also pointless and not needed. I guess if anything it was setting him up as a possible suspect. This was yet another chapter that’s pointless and wasn’t really needed though it does very slightly play a part in the finale it could have been edited since honestly not only a pace killer, but very boring as well.

There is also a passage about Connie who is a bit player who is mostly just mentioned with a brief scene where she has dialogue. Jan is the actress hired to play Mary Crane and Connie is her roommate. Like Jan, Connie is also an actress only she isn’t attractive enough to be a star so she mostly just stands in for certain shots where her face isn’t seen. But there is a brief scene of her working on a porn flick where she feels empowered cause she’s the star. Seeing as Connie was such a minor player I have no idea why Bloch felt compelled to write this brief scene. Not only again is Connie mostly just mentioned with only a tiny bit of dialogue, but this scene has no impact on the story and I have no idea why Bloch wrote it and why it wasn’t edited out.

The twist at the end was smart and creative, but the downside is its a little sloppy in how it’s handled and also felt rushed. It’s almost as if Bloch was getting too close to his word count and needed to wrap it up quickly. While some people felt it was obvious I thought the twist was smart just could have been handled better.

As I brought up in terms of mixed reviews I’m just gonna assume most people read this book after seeing the film and in my case I saw all the Psycho films as well as the remake and first season of the Bates Motel (haven’t seen the failed TV pilot Bates Motel from 1987) all before I read a single page of any of the Psycho novels so in the case of Psycho II the fact Norman is so different than the film version I get why some may not like this, but again as much as Norman was the same in the original novel and film with the slight differences this Norman in the Psycho II novel very much fits better than the film version and the film version of Norman in Psycho II fits better than he would in the novel. Just keep all that in mind. It’s totally understandable to favor the films if you saw those first, but I did as well and could easily accept the differences for reasons stated.

Psycho II in my opinion is a great book as for 95% of the book I couldn’t put it down and couldn’t wait to read what happened next, but the final 60 or so pages it does get very sloppy and does slightly hinder the novel. However everything before that was great and Robert Bloch writes another winner and Psycho II is very much on par with the original novel as well as the film version of Psycho II. But keep in my mind the plot and Norman are totally different than the film.

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Psycho (1959 Novel) Review

Posted in Psycho (Novel) with tags , , on July 1, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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PSYCHO NOVEL

**** ┬ŻOut of 5

Release Date- 1959

Written by- Robert Bloch

When it comes to Psycho it seems sometimes people forget the Alfred Hitchcock masterpiece was based off a novel; the film is no doubt one of the greatest films ever made and its a film every aspiring filmmaker should see to learn how to plot a screenplay and how to direct. But without the novel by Robert Bloch we wouldn’t have the classic film. It’s a shame the novel is sort of forgotten and I suppose that just shows how great the film was, but its a shame because the novel is a wonderful book and really should get more attention. Between the two I personally think the film was better for the most part (not a lot better however), but the novel is far better than the sequels and remake. Robert Bloch wrote a truly terrific novel and I just wish it didn’t take me as long as it did to finally read it.

The film and novel really aren’t that much different, but personally I felt the changes screenwriter Joseph Stefano made improved on what was an amazing novel. Unlike the film Norman is introduced right away and this worked great in the book, but the film version made the right idea by keeping Norman out for the first 30-minutes as I don’t think it would have worked as well in the film mainly due to a lot of Norman’s chapters are his thoughts outside of a few conversations with Mother. Also it adds to the odd vibe when Marion Crane (Mary in the novel) first meets Norman. Introducing Norman right away worked brilliant in the book, but Alfred Hitchcock and Joseph Stefano made the right move in taking Norman out of the early parts of the film. Would I have felt that way if I read the novel first? Not possible to give an answer, but at least it gives the novel and film a couple of differences, which helped my enjoyment of the book a little more. The film and novel aren’t all that different for the most part and I would again give the edge to the film, but in general they aren’t all that different and the changes made in the film I thought actually improved the film over what was a very good novel.

The novel does offer a little more insight on Mary Crane and her sister Lila and Sam Loomis. While all three characters are well developed in the film we do learn more about them. Obviously certain things can’t be in the film as it would slow the pace down and even stray from the main plot and of course we can’t get into the thoughts of the characters without a voice over, but all these things would hurt the pace, but work brilliantly in the novel. Robert Bloch does a wonderful job with the characters and you really feel as if you get to know them. Norman is a little more likable in the film; by the end of Psycho we know Norman is insane and has a split personality, but prior to that he’s a bit weird and eccentric and really Norman isn’t the villain; Mother is and Norman is just guilty of covering up her crimes, but the novel we get more into his mind and while still weird and eccentric we also know he isn’t all there and I didn’t find Norman as likable in the novel as I did the film. As we get into his thoughts he could be quite nasty. Though for the most part Norman is more or less the same biggest differences are he’s 40-years old, overweight and a bit of an alcoholic. But there are some differences and I really loved the take the novel had on Norman as well as the film.

Psycho the film starts off as a crime/drama that becomes a horror film and the novel also is sort of a crime/drama, but it seemed to me Mary played less of a part as she did in the film even if there isn’t much added differently in the film. I guess since in the novel Norman is introduced right away perhaps that’s why, but it did seem to me the part was a bit bigger in the film even if again there really wasn’t much added. The novel seems a little more horror and suspense driven with an odd tone established from the start whereas the film while does the same thing in terms of horror and suspense, but the tone early is more crime/drama. It’s quite interesting how the same material just worded differently at times can make things play off so different at times.

As far as the changes made in the film from the book I guess seeing the film so many times its only natural to favor the film. The changes aren’t major; most changes made its the same basic idea just played out a bit differently, but not where it strays. But I suppose its only natural to favor the film since I’ve seen it many times before ever reading the book. With all that said though Psycho is a fantastic novel and if you’ve seen the film nothing here will surprise you, but that doesn’t take away from the novel at all.

Overall Psycho is an amazing novel and Robert Bloch deserves far more credit than he gets. Like I said I do feel the changes made by Joseph Stefano elevated the material, but that’s not a knock on Robert Bloch who again wrote a terrific book and just might make my top 5 novels of all time. Robert Bloch would write Psycho II in 1982 coming out a year before the film version of Psycho II and would feature entirely different plots and in 1990 Robert Bloch wrote Psycho House the 3rd and final part of his trilogy. The original novel was the best out of the three and it comes highly recommend.

(The 8th page I posted is the shower scene).

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