Psychos on the Web

Toronto Star
March 1, 2000
By Peter Howell

Hey, how would you like to have the American Psycho killer e-mail you with his latest murderous thoughts?

Or maybe you're more of a hands-on person. Fancy putting your mark on Janet Leigh by making a new version of her shower killing in Hitchcock's original Psycho?

Both exercises in egregious bad taste are newly available on the Web, though the motivations behind them are different. The first is part of a movie promotion, the second a movie homage.

The first is also the most disturbing. The Web site for American Psycho www.americanpsycho.com, Mary Harron's screen adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' yuppie serial-killer novel, takes the film's satiric bent way too far.

``Receive e-mail from an American psycho,'' the site invites.

The psycho in question is Patrick Bateman, the Wall Street shark in the novel who slices, dices and hacks up women and men.

``Sign up for Bret Easton Ellis' Am.Psycho2000 and Bateman will get back to you,'' the invitation continues. ``Patrick Bateman is alive and well, and now he's online. Am.Psycho 2000 brings you face to face with the most notorious, and possibly the most psychotic yuppie to ever write - or wrong - you. Bateman's back, with more byte than ever, and he wants to confess his darkest secrets to you, via e-mail.''

Am.Psycho2000 is the Web-only update of American Psycho that Easton Ellis is writing. His e-mail dispatches are scheduled to begin March 15. If they're anything like the book, the e-mails will be the equivalent of having an open sewer pipe disgorge into your computer.

Remember that Bateman was an inspiration for Paul Bernardo, the very real Ontario killer. Using Bateman as the e-mail pitchman for a movie, even if he is a fictional character, crosses the line from satire into callous exploitation.

And there's more. The site also promises exclusive video footage and outtakes from American Psycho, which opens in theatres April 14.

The outtakes may include the three-way sex scene that Harron recently trimmed from the U.S. version of her film in order to avoid the deadly NC-17 rating from the Motion Picture Association of America. The MPAA this week gave the recut film a multiplex-friendly ``R'' rating.

Contrast this with the latest of many Web sites for the other Psycho, the 1960 Hitchcock classic that launched a thousand nicks - American Psycho included.

British Hitchcock fan Brendan Dawes has put on-line an interactive tribute he calls Psycho Studio H www.saulbass.co.uk/psychostudio/.

It allows you to rearrange the frames of the endlessly studied 48-second shower sequence, where Janet Leigh's character Marion Crane is stabbed to death by the demented Norman Bates, played by Anthony Perkins.

You use your mouse to click and drag images to a strip of virtual film. Psycho Studio then plays your newly edited shower short, along with the slashing Bernard Herrmann score of the original movie.

As ghoulish and tacky as it seems, Psycho Studio can be defended as serious film appreciation. It's fascinating to see exactly how Hitchcock and editor George Tomasini put together one of the most indelible scenes in all of film.

They did it without Perkins' knife once touching Leigh, although the rapid edits and terrifying sounds made it seem as though she had been slashed repeatedly.

They also did it without nudity, although Leigh filmed the scene nude. Hitchcock and Tomasini managed to protect Leigh's modesty (and avoid the censor's wrath) even in individual frames of the sequence. It's the kind of sensitivity Lions Gate and the marketers of American Psycho would do well to emulate.

Putting the knife to the Bateman e-mail idea would be a good place to start