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American Psycho. 2000. Directed by Mary Harron. Screenplay by Harron & Guinevere Turner, based on the novel of the same name by Bret Easton Ellis.
Starring Christian Bale, Justin Theroux, Josh Lucas, Bill Sage, Chloë Sevigny, Reese Witherspoon, Samantha Mathis, Matt Ross, Jared Leto, Willem Dafoe, Cara Seymour, Guinevere Turner, Stephen Bogaert, Monika Meier, & Reg E. Cathey. Am Psycho Productions/Edward R.
Pressman Film/Lions Gate Films.
Rated R. 102 minutes.
The director of I Shot Andy Warhol, as well as episodes of excellent television shows like Homicide: Life on the Street and Oz – Mary Harron – takes on Bret Easton Ellis’ most well-known and definitely most controversial novel: American Psycho. What I find interesting is that this novel has been lambasted for being too horrific, disturbing, as well as having a hot streak of misogyny running through it. And yet here is a proud woman director, who before and after did very female-centric projects, taking upon herself the heavy duty of giving Ellis a big screen adaptation. And it’s because so many seem to misunderstand the original novel, Ellis’ own intentions. While it definitely serves up a nice heap of horror, American Psycho is mainly an allegory about the murderous rampage of empty-headed capitalism and those it sweeps up in its hideous wave of destruction.
The main character Patrick Bateman is an enigma. At the same time he is beyond predictable. He is a man who wants to be better than everyone else while simultaneously hoping to be just like everyone else. Thus the reasoning for such a title, nationalizing the phenomenon of psychosis here, as Bateman represents the perfect microcosm of psychosis involved in the American Dream. While the movie alludes further than the novel to what Bateman experiences as possibly all part of his own delusions, there is still a ton of visceral horror here with all that psychological madness. In a place where the hallucinatory and the corporeal meet lies American Psycho, ready to confuse, terrify, and pull out a few dark chuckles here or there.
People are more concerned with appearance than anything concrete everywhere you turn in this film. When Bateman supposedly drags a corpse out to a taxi, an acquaintance sees him, but pays no mind to what might be in the bag Patrick is dragging – he only wants to know where he got the fabulous overnight bag. Hilariously, Patrick replies “Jean Paul Gaultier” before heading off. Frequently new business cards destroy the souls of those with their same old cards still kicking around from last printing; this is perhaps the epitome of consumerism evident throughout the film. Another funny moment is when Patrick and Evelyn (Witherspoon) are at a restaurant together later – he’s breaking things off with her, actually admitting to mass murder, and she is too busy checking out a friend’s watch across the room admiring its quality. The screenplay is peppered with these bits everywhere along the way, making not only Patrick a victim of 1980s Wall Street consumer culture, but also everyone in his world, as well.
But above all else there are many little clues and hints along the way that the events of American Psycho – the serial killings – are all a product of the protagonist(/antagonist?)’s rotten mind. He becomes an unreliable narrator to the entire experience. For instance, as Patrick drags his supposed overnight bag out through the apartment building a streak of blood follows behind, staining the floor everywhere – yet the doorman only shakes his head, and a shot from outside of Patrick leaving the building shows there’s no blood anywhere to be found. Of course, as the film wears on these instances are more frequent and also much more noticeable. It’s very likely Patrick is dreaming up/fantasizing about these murders especially once we see him running naked, covered in blood, brandishing a running chainsaw through the halls of his apartment complex. Nobody heard any of that? Not likely. Because as opposed to Leatherface, of whom Patrick is a fan (he works out while watching The Texas Chain Saw Massacre), Patrick does his hunting not on the backwoods rural roads of small town U.S.A, but rather in the heart of the urban jungle that is Manhattan. So he doesn’t have a lot of privacy, certainly not to do these types of things. That’s a large reason of why the novel and the film are both excellent in their own rights, the lines between reality and hallucination, fantasy and the truth, are blurred to the point of black and white distinctions no longer being even remotely possible. Bateman and these Wall Street types life in the grey zone anyways, so it’s no surprise Patrick heading off the deep end puts him in another morally grey zone to boot.
It’s many of the little things which make Patrick an unsettling man. The intersection of horror and sex in his life is more than disturbing. Essentially, aside from the thrill of making money – which then is even further down the ladder than appearing powerful/wealthy – a man such as Bateman is left with only the thrill of sex and murder to satisfy his deepest urges. Then there’s the fact just about the only thing Patrick can discuss at any length is either music or anything else pop culture related. He’s so unoriginal and devoid of any personality or true wit that his only go-to excuse for people is “I have to return some videotapes.” Moreover, he only relates to any real, true emotion through music, whether it’s Whitney Houston or Huey Lewis. Everything he is comes through a construct: music, his apartment, his clothes, his business card and suit and tie. Further than that, Patrick’s identity almost becomes this fluid state simply because he is often mistaken for somebody else. A man at a building’s reception desk calls him Mr. Smith. He’s mistaken for Paul Allen, too. Later on he gets mistaken for someone named Davis. In this light, you can see his ‘killing’ of Paul Allen as a way for him to kill off that identity in order to make room for his own; a plea, a cry for recognition.
Of most importance is Patrick’s narcissism. We see the narcissistic ideals of these Wall Street guys, fawning over business cards, ties, dinner reservations, so on. They’re all about status. It’s all about being the center of attention, and in turn the center of that economic stratosphere in a hierarchy of financial crooks. So what better way to gain attention and be the center of a circus than to go on a serial killing rampage? Even better if it’s all in his head.
Christian Bale breaks through the often sickening (though awesomely intriguing) subject matter to make Patrick Bateman into a complex serial killer; one that Bret Easton Ellis created then Mary Harron and writing partner Guinevere Turner expanded upon in this masterpiece of an adaptation. It isn’t for everybody. Then again, the novel wasn’t either. And maybe I’m biased, because as much as I find Ellis slightly obnoxious as a personality, his writing is often emotionally shattering and downright remarkable. Love the novel, love the film. Harron does a nice job with directing, making the Ellis novel somehow palatable and at the same time horrific as you’d imagine. It took forever to get this to the screen after a ton of pre-production nightmares, so obviously Harron was the one able to get things in the proper place as director. Using Bale’s charismatic and terrifying performance Harron crafts this Ellis adaptation into 102 minutes of pure madness, ending on an ambiguous, unsettling note.
Because whether Patrick killed those people is ultimately futile – we have no idea where he’ll go, what he’ll do after these final moments. Will he take what he’s learned from hallucinating those murders, if that’s the case, and get better at being a serial killer? Has this basically been the pregame warm-up to his big spectacle? We don’t know. And not knowing is the scariest part.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 5, Episode 7: “Flicker”
Directed by Michael Goi
Written by Crystal Liu
* For a review of the previous episode, “Room 33” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Ten Commandments Killer” – click here
Checking in at the Hotel Cortez for another week, are we? Join me, as we walk the halls.
You can already feel new revelations about the come to light. Construction has broke ground at the hotel under Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson) and his management. Eventually, the crew comes upon a part of the hotel covered with steel, running along a whole section. Drake tells them to get the job done, knock it down. Once a couple of the construction guys make their way down a hallway uncovered after tearing the wall down, they discover creepy people(things) lurking in the darkness. Not long after, they have their throats chewed out.
One thing others are whining about is the blood and gore. Those elements do not a horror make. However, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have explored a lot of avenues with the 4 seasons preceding this one. They’ve stated this season is meant to have more intense brutality and gore. They said that. So, sorry you don’t like blood, but there ARE horror fans who LOVE that. I am one who can appreciate many sub-genres in horror, including the splatter stuff if it’s done well. The splattery nastiness here is done properly between the writers, the directors, and the Murphy-Falchuk banner. Dig it, hugely.
Alex Lowe (Chloë Sevigny) has brought her husband John (Wes Bentley) to the hospital. He’s almost in a trance-like state, walking in catatonia. He virtually mumbles everything coming out of his mouth. But rightfully so, he is definitely failing mentally. At the same time, most of his mental stress is being produced through his wife, through the hotel, through all the things he knows are real but just can’t prove. Not yet. He seems to have a plan, being checked in on purpose, though. I hope so hard he is NOT the Ten Commandments Killer after all. I don’t think he is, he seems to have an ace up his sleeve.
Back at the hotel, Iris (Kathy Bates) accompanies The Countess (Lady Gaga) over to where the construction crew are down two men. They don’t even know who did it, so that’s something I find interesting: Countess doesn’t even have the lid on everything happening under her roof. I’m sure James March (Evan Peters) knows all about the various comings and goings. But The Countess readily admits she’s not sure of what could’ve done the deed, and Iris notes how “I‘ve never seen you scared before.” Very intriguing little scene.
An impressive flashback to The Countess and her former life, 1925 in Hollywood. She is an extra on the set of a Ruldoph Valentino (Finn Wittrock) picture, admiring how beautiful the man is. They end up back at Valentino’s luxurious home. “Flickers are the future,” she says to him. He doesn’t buy her talk of immortality on the silver screen, commenting that in a century nobody will remember any of the movies they were in. We already know this not to be true, 90 years on; highly and almost categorically untrue, overall. Regardless, we’re treated to an excellent few classical film-like moments where the young Countess is whirled around dancing by Rudolph. Then, out of nowhere, Natacha Rambova (Alexandra Daddario) – his wife – shows up and makes the entire thing unpleasant, terribly awkward. This sex-laden season continues with a Rambova-Rudolph-Countess threesome.
Young Countess heads over to a celebration held by none other than Mr. James March. Here, in a brief scene, we get to see Evan Peters really do some excellent acting. I love him, and I’ve loved his performance in each season. Although, at the beginning of Hotel I was not sold on his March; I thought it was too hammy, or something. But more and more I’ve been drawn in. With this scene, and the one following with him/Gaga, I’m beyond pleased. There’s some element of these moments which I can’t escape, so damn infectious.
More than that, March and young Countess come together: man and wife. She doesn’t truly love him, still burning for Rudolph (who in this timeline has faked his death). Nevertheless, we see the beginning of the March-Countess murder double team, plus there is an excellent black-and-white old school sequence featuring Wittrock as Valentino; it reminds me of an actual silent movie from the early 20th century, fitted with an homage to F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu. Not just an homage, it’s actually Murnau who is a vampire seeking to preserve Valentino. There’s lots of good stuff, including a blood orgy of vampires in the Carpathians.
But Valentino and Rambova have plans to whisk The Countess away with them. Will March let anything like that happen? I think not.
Over at the West Los Angeles Health Center, John Lowe is stumbling around, dazed and looking like any other patient. Only soon he knocks out a guard, making his way into a locked wing of the hospital looking for a patient named HAHN. Opening the door, he finds a young blonde girl dressed like all the other kids The Countess took. Her name is Wren (Jessica Belkin), she doesn’t “want to feed anymore.” More than all that, she has information about the Ten Commandments Killer apparently. Wren was present during one of the crimes, but says: “Nobody forced me to do anything.” She doesn’t seem to want to run from any of it, admitting to what happened and claiming it was nobody else’s fault except her own. There are scary parallels happening now, between Wren/The 10 Commandments Killer and John/his daughter. The visuals are awesome, with close-ups on John’s face, as well as Wren. Then she takes us back to a 1986 flashback where her father leaves her in a hot car outside the Hotel Cortez; when she met The Countess. Finally, Wren agrees to take Lowe to where the killer lives if they can escape.
Big surprise! The two creepy things that killed those construction guys are actually zombified, starving corpses, vampire corpses starving for blood… they are Rudolph and Natacha. Trying to get enough blood to return them to a state of beauty, they argue with one another. Natacha hates him for needing The Countess, bringing them into their now horrific state.
“What curious creatures”
“Like Colossus come to life“
James March and The Countess have a nice dinner together, a monthly tradition it seems. He’s very dapper and lovely, she is also gorgeous and looking elegant. She wanted to see him because of the plan to marry Drake. He feigns a bit of sincerity. Clearly, he does not like the idea. The Countess, to James, is his property. The dinner isn’t exactly wonderful or happy. Mostly, they’re tense with one another.
Then we see what could’ve been assumed – March had Natacha and Rudolph attacked, then brought to the Hotel Cortez. After which he proceeded to wall them up in that hallway, where they were left to perish for the rest of eternity. Or, at least until Drake decided to start renovating his latest acquisition. But even while I knew this was coming, I love the sequence. It’s haunting, harrowing even, to see these two lovers – assholes though they were – discovering themselves forever entombed behind a steel, a wall, then a ton of bricks. Best of all, March reveals all this to The Countess.
The finale of the episode is incredible. “Circles” by The Soft Moon plays as we first see Rudolph and Natacha stroll out of the hotel replenished with youthful vigour. Then, John Lowe gets Wren out of the hospital. But instead of any answers, Wren wants it all to end: she runs into the street and gets ran down by a transport truck. Cue the black screen.
Excited for the next episode, “The Ten Commandments Killer“. What do you think? Will John be the culprit? Or is it an unknown, hidden character lurking just beyond the periphery of our vision? Stay tuned with me and find out, horror heads!
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 5, Episode 6: “Room 33”
Directed by Loni Peristere
Written by John J. Gray
* For a review of the previous episode, “Room Service” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Flicker” – click here
This week’s episode, “Room 33”, begins with a nice flashback to 1926 in Los Angeles. The Countess (Lady Gaga) goes to – yes – MURDER HOUSE from Season 1. She’s pregnant, and ole Charles Montgomery (Matt Ross) has the solution.
I’m loving this return to the first season, such an excellent connection. It isn’t passing either, like the earlier episode with Marcy the realtor. This opening sequence is slightly gruesome, especially once Montgomery takes a good huff of the inhalants to get things going. But the real fun begins when the baby ripped from Countess’ womb attacks the nurse helping Charles with the abortion.
“Congratulations— it’s a boy.”
Biggest trip of all for John Lowe (Wes Bentley) comes after waking up in bed, his little lost boy Holden next to him. When he chases the kid downstairs, John finds his wife in one of the glass coffins in the empty pool. This prompts a good fainting spell, like it would.
Then we move to Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) and Tristan Duffy (Finn Wittrock) rolling around in bed together, having sex. Wow – did not expect this at all. Pretty wild scene. Not only that, there’s some strange connection between these two already. They each reminisce about what it’s like to see one another, both of them with their own sweet sort of poetry about the other. Strange moments, though, only because they’re so quickly coming on! Otherwise I think these two make an excellent pairing.
Meanwhile, The Countess has got Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson) on her own bed, giving him the business. But naturally, he is a gay man: “My cock and my mind operate separately,” Drake tells her. She decides there’s a need for an extra hand in all the fun, sending a text to Tristan. Then he has to go upstairs, to help out with Will’s dick. Well Tristan continually tries denying he is gay, even though he isn’t opposed to having sex with a pre-op transsexual (nothing wrong with it – no judgement on my part – but he IS at least bisexual). And still, The Countess easily persuades him into doing the deed, then she says: “Just fluff him up a little. I‘ll finish him off.”
Alex Lowe (Chloë Sevigny) drugged her husband up, put him back in the room and then set things to look as if he’d called her, probably drunk. Not as if she’s a vampire now, carrying that ancient virus, and sleeping in a glass coffin. She’s luring John into believing he is having a “psychotic break.” I feel so god damn bad for Dt. Lowe, and it only gets deeper when he heads down to the emptied pool – where, of course, not a single coffin is still lying on the floor. I’m constantly wondering how far this breakdown of John’s will go: is the Ten Commandments Killer, or is he just a good guy being done wrong by all the evil forces around him at Hotel Cortez?
Perhaps my favourite moment of the episode’s start is when Countess goes into a darkened room, picking up her supposed child, and tells him/her she’s going to Paris. Afterwards, they’ll have a massive amount of money it seems. But what is the child? Has it not grown since? It looks like a tiny infant still. Or is it another child? I doubt it. I imagine that’s still the child. So what, who, is it?
Finally, Donovan (Matt Bomer) and Ramona Royale (Angela Bassett) show up at the hotel in order to start enacting a bit of revenge. Ramona is clearly the most keen on doing in The Countess. She and Iris (Kathy Bates) are both surprised, for the worse, when they discover the kids in the coffins aren’t where they ought to be. A wrench is jammed into things for now. Although, between two feisty women like Ramona and Iris, I’m sure something will happen soon enough: Ramona wants the key to ROOM 33. Isn’t that where The Countess keeps her survived abortion baby?
At the same time, Donovan runs into the two Swedish girls who died at the hotel – they find out the tough way what’s really going on. I thought this whole sequence was awesome! Bomer is a great actor, in my opinion. He leads us into a scene with a girl named Carol who committed suicide at the Cortez – turns out, she came back and found a purpose in terrorizing guests. You never get to leave, sadly.
Ramona heads into Room 33, looking for little Bartholomew – The Countess’ feral abortion child. There’s a highly creepy scene here, with P.O.V shots from the baby, then a good one as it attacks Ramona. Everyone is in league, or almost everyone, against The Countess. Liz and Ramona are catching up, in a friendly way. Even Donovan, despite loving her and sniffing her panties, wants some revenge on the woman. Iris wants none of it, which is clear. So there is a lot going on against the lady of the house. Tristan is caught in the middle somewhere, I’m not sure if he’s going to fully fall in love with Liz, or if Countess will reel him back in. Either way, I feel a showdown at some point coming between Liz/Countess, as she may feel utterly betrayed by his loving Tristan. We’ll certainly see how things go from here.
The two dead Swedish girls find a purpose, or at the very least fun, in the hallways of the Cortez. They bang then kill a guy (well one of them bangs him), a bloody, nasty mess. After that, they unhappily talk with Alex Lowe about their purpose – she suggests crushing the minds of their prey, instead of so much gory murder. Apparently, Alex says she knows a guy who’s always wanted a threesome. Oh no…
John Lowe shows up at a new crime scene, asking his partner whether or not it’s a Ten Commandments Killer murder. But the cops don’t want or need him around, he’s obviously spinning into a downward descent. Back over at the Cortez, former Dt. Lowe lies around in the halls with a bottle of booze. He’s full of self pity, as well as self loathing. Then around the corner come the two Swedish walking corpses. They’re going to seduce John into bed, which they proceed to do. It’s a weird and bloody ride for Lowe, whose mind can’t handle whatever is happening. He takes off into the darkness,blood all over him, and heads to the front desk. Upstairs, Miss Evers (Mare Winningham) is cleaning up the bedroom, talking about the sheets and how full of blood they are, but ultimately it’s all about John losing his mind.
In the corner of the room, after everyone leaves, James March (Evan Peters) appears. Then quickly disappears. This almost drives John fully to the brink, banging his head off the wall. He knows he has to leave, so he begins to pack frantically. Will he make it through the doors and back out into the world alive?
“This is my breakdown— I‘m gonna have it!”
Before Lowe leaves, little Bartholomew climbs into his suitcase without him noticing. SHIT! Where is this going to lead?
At home, John arrives with his daughter Scarlett (Shree Crooks). The girl is obviously pissed with her whole family after the strange events of the past couple episodes, even worse she was left at a friend’s house indefinitely, so that’s never a fun thing for kids. You can see John wants to repair his family, if that’s even going to be possible with a vampiric wife/son, and an emotionally damaged daughter now.
But again, we see the perspective of Bartholomew creeping around the Lowe house. John tries to track it down and finds it in the kitchen. We don’t get to see the child-thing. We watch in horror as John sees it, his eyes widened. Then he fires off shots, scaring the shit out of his daughter and making her afraid of him. There’s no sign of Bartholomew. Only a bloody trail. More adding to John’s deteriorating mental state, except we know the truth.
After the daughter is carted off to the grandparents and John is deemed even more insane, Alex finds little Bartholomew in the grass. Still, we don’t get to see him! I love how it’s being drawn out. The suspense kills me, in the best sort of way.
Liz finally confronts The Countess about Tristan. There’s an awkwardness at first, and then we come face to face with her jealousy. They all meet in one of the hotel rooms, she wants to have it all out in the open. The Countess doesn’t like the taste of betrayal, which she says tastes like charred spots on meat. A great scene comes here with Tristan laying everything out there, telling Countess about his “real love” for Liz, as opposed to her method, the sort that only brings sadness and despair and agony.
Nothing lasts forever, though. She lets Liz have Tristan, but immediately slits the boy’s throat right there. A fantastically gory gush comes rushing out, flying everywhere. Poor Liz, I thought this was going to be a good thing for her.
Then, in Room 33, Alex has brought the child back for The Countess. They bond over saved sons, each saving the other’s now, I guess. Does Alex really feel this way? Is she merely playing a game to lull in The Countess? What will truly happen
FINALLY! We see the face of Bartholomew. An eerie shot to say the least.
Very excited to see the next episode, “Flicker”, which is directed by Michael Goi – he’s a regular Director of Photography on American Horror Story. Stay tuned with me for another creep next week, fellow fans!