House Logo
Explore categories +

American Psycho (#110 of 8)

Totally Psycho American Psycho

Comments Comments (...)

Totally Psycho: American Psycho

Jeremy Daniel

Totally Psycho: American Psycho

It’s hard to tell if the American Psycho musical knows that it sounds like a joke straight out of The Simpsons—or whether it matters. Imagine Homer Simpson and his family on a trip to Capital City, and Marge announces that there’s a musical based on Bret Easton Ellis’s novel. The kicker: Duncan Sheik wrote the music. But this is no joke, despite the copious jokes. It’s real life, and we’re stuck with what to make of this ludicrous crowd-pleaser.

I’m reminded of another absurd musical adaptation of another quintessential novel of ’80s New York depravity: Paul Scott Goodman’s Patrick Wilson-starring Bright Lights, Big City, from 1999, which took its odd subject for musical theater and ran with it so far past its farcical extremes that it came out the other side. The hero of Jay McInerney’s novel had a fixation on a comatose child, and Goodman gave “Coma Baby” its own song, which is revisited throughout; he did the same for a missing NYU student on a milk carton. The downtown cokeheads at the Odeon repeat the line “Can you make me cum?” until it sounds like catchy nonsense a la “da doo ron ron.”

Summer of ‘89: Weekend at Bernie’s

Comments Comments (...)

Summer of ’89: Weekend at Bernie’s
Summer of ’89: Weekend at Bernie’s

Ted Kotcheff’s moth-bitten, notoriously macabre comedy Weekend at Bernie’s is best—and most rewardingly—revisited as an unintended rumination on the queasy moral crises of Reaganomics-era America. While traipsing the corpse of a mob-whacked insurance tycoon around his $2 million beachside Hamptons mansion for a weekend, getting laid is nevertheless priority one for dum-dum antiheroes Richard (Jonathan Silverman) and Larry (Andrew McCarthy). But as the issue of Bernie’s death begins to eclipse Richard’s accursed attempt to woo his hot co-worker love-interest, Gwen (Catherine Mary Stewart), the film plays like a live-action elaboration on the Pleasure Island sequence in Pinocchio, but for teenagers looking to catch a glimpse of their future awkward adult selves.

That the gags are terrible doesn’t dilute the casual, old-fashionedness of their execution: They build up and play out in a way that feels uncannily like satire, except all the characters can spit out is empty, nacho-cheesy boilerplate. There’s a scene where Richard—a gawky analyst in a salmon-colored dress shirt and glimmering suspenders—tells Gwen that his parents are dead in order to win some kernel of sympathy. Tim Matheson made this type of fuckery hilarious in Animal House with his knowingly supercilious performance-within-a-performance; Silverman simply comes across as a liar and a doof. Sure, it’s mean-spirited, but more to the point, it’s a blown opportunity to reveal anything about the characters other than (a) he’s a coward and (b) she’s gullible.

Box Office Rap Out of the Furnace and Christian Bale’s Body (of Work)

Comments Comments (...)

Box Office Rap: Out of the Furnace and Christian Bale’s Body (of Work)
Box Office Rap: Out of the Furnace and Christian Bale’s Body (of Work)

As Bane raises Batman above his head and prepares to snap his back in The Dark Knight Rises, Bane postulates, “I was wondering what would break first: your spirit or your body!” The scene is faithful to the comic books for its “krakt” intensity, but also reflexive insofar as it speaks to Christian Bale’s acting career, which has been founded on consistent bodily transformation and, before donning the cape for Christopher Nolan’s franchise, a lack of commercial success that could have easily broken the actor’s spirit in becoming an A-list star. Yet, even after the Batman films, Bale’s financial viability removed from franchise confines remains questionable, and one wonders with Out of the Furnace opening this weekend if Bale’s name alone is enough to guarantee a $10 million opening.

Bale’s career began as a child actor in films like Empire of the Sun and Newsies, but it wasn’t until 2000’s American Psycho that he found a leading role that began to define his star persona. As Patrick Bateman, Bale’s slender, muscular body and strikingly handsome face were apparent enough, but perhaps more surprising was the ease with which the actor seemed to project Bateman’s affability-masking-psychopathy lifestyle, wielding an ax with the same quotidian detachment as when he visits the tanning salon. Roger Ebert said in his review of the film that “Bale is heroic in the way he allows the character to leap joyfully into despicability; there is no instinct for self-preservation here, and that is one mark of a good actor.” Audiences generally agreed, as the $7 million film grossed just over $15 million domestically.

Bloodsuckers, Hatchet Murderers, and Lollipop-Smacking Devils: Three by Mario Bava

Comments Comments (...)

Bloodsuckers, Hatchet Murderers, and Lollipop-Smacking Devils: Three by Mario Bava
Bloodsuckers, Hatchet Murderers, and Lollipop-Smacking Devils: Three by Mario Bava

Undisputed maestro of the macabre, Mario Bava put Italian horror cinema on the map in the late 1950s with I Vampiri, the first horror film to come out of Italy since the silent era. Gothic horror was in the air, you might say, in those days: Witness the roughly coeval resurgence of the genre at England’s Hammer Films, with their muscular and bloody take on classic Universal monsters (Curse of Frankenstein, Horror of Dracula), as well as the cycle of gaudily decadent Edgar Allan Poe adaptations helmed by Roger Corman (House of Usher). Unlike those Technicolor terrors, Bava preferred, at least initially, to work in moody monochrome. Drawing on his training in the fine arts, as well as his background working as cinematographer for renowned neorealist filmmakers like Roberto Rossellini and Vittorio De Sica, Bava developed his own inimitable style. Most noticeably, he displayed a marked affinity for economical, and often improvisatory, effects work, especially the exquisitely detailed matte paintings that often help to enrich the pictorial density of his films.

15 Famous Movie Psychopaths

Comments Comments (...)

15 Famous Movie Psychopaths
15 Famous Movie Psychopaths

In Bruges badass Martin McDonagh returns this weekend with Seven Psychopaths, the sophomore feature from the Irish multihyphenate and a good source for onscreen nutjobs. Colin Farrell leads the cast of not-quite-sane characters, who include two dognappers played by Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken. Still, we’re thinking this new septet of psychos has nothing on the filmic crazies that have come before, particularly the lot we’ve assembled for this list. You could repeatedly scour cinema history and return with a new batch of lunatics every time. For now, here are 15 that linger strongly in the memory, a rogues gallery that runs the gamut from clingy patient to schizo serviceman.

Eyes Wide Open Alan Wake

Comments Comments (...)

Eyes Wide Open: Alan Wake
Eyes Wide Open: Alan Wake

Contrary to early reports, Alan Wake is not a transcendent gaming experience. This, it should be noted upfront, is a good thing. For all its daring and ingenuity, Remedy Games’s long-in-production third-person Xbox 360 title has one foot firmly planted in expansive, compelling storytelling, and the other in basic gameplay. And there’s something refreshingly honest about the game’s standard action mechanics, which—though somewhat butting up against the narrative’s desire to be a profound, haunting meditation on issues of light and dark, fiction and reality—don’t attempt to position the material as some groundbreaker it’s not, as was the case with the wretched “interactive movie” Heavy Rain. Aside from some shortcomings, the game’s plot captivatingly expands on traditional game scripting, yet Alan Wake never loses sight of its fundamental search-kill-puzzle construction, a focus that does much to ground the proceedings even when its aspirations exceed its ability.

Opening with a verbal reference to Stephen King (whose novels, especially The Shining, proves a primary source of inspiration), and then telling a tale heavily indebted to Twin Peaks and Lost (right down to the action being split into “chapters” that commence with clever “previously on” episode recaps), the game has the player take control of Alan Wake, a crime-fiction novelist on vacation with wife Alice. After an intro tutorial sequence set in Alan’s nightmare, we learn that Alan is beset with writer’s block, and has been convinced by Alice to travel to the remote forested town of Bright Falls, Washington to clear his head, though Alan’s attempts to spend some time out of the limelight are thwarted by locales who not only recognize but adore him. Alan Wake takes its time during these interactive, non-battle-oriented early passages, establishing a strong sense of milieu as well as community. This is key given that much of the ensuing drama hinges on Alan’s rapport with the world around him, a relationship that soon goes screwy once—upon being tricked into staying at a cabin on ominous Cauldron Lake—Alice goes missing, and Alan wakes up alone and confused behind the wheel of a crashed car.

Fear Itself: “Community”

Comments Comments (...)

<em>Fear Itself</em>: “Community”
<em>Fear Itself</em>: “Community”

Unemployed Superman Brandon Routh stars in the sixth episode of Fear Itself as a young husband and potential father who allows his wife’s (Shiri Appleby) enthusiasm for a home in an odd private community to blind him to the fine print on the sales contract. You see, though The Commons seems like a great place to live and raise your kids, it’s really a lot like Stepford, Connecticut or Kings Row where everyone hides behind painted smiles.

If you ever read any Ira Levin, Thomas Tryon, Shirley Jackson or Jack Finney, you’ll be able to predict every beat of this episode scripted by Kelly Kennemer and directed by American Psycho’s Mary Harron. This would not be a big deal were it ever really suspenseful, witty or scary but since it fails on all counts, we’re left looking at the bland story and just waiting for the obvious “shock” ending to drop, right out of Tryon’s Harvest Home but without the power of that novel’s symbolic castration.