One woman's rough night out becomes a somehow even worse nightmare than just an assault, when she discovers she's pregnant. With... something.
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 5: “Room Service”
Directed by Michael Goi
Written by Ned Martel
* For a review of the previous episode, “Devil’s Night” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Room 33” – click here
Greetings, friends – another night at Hotel Cortez, is it?
“Room Service” starts out back with Alex Lowe (Chloë Sevigny), whose recent path has taken her into the arms of The Countess (Lady Gaga). Remember last episode at the finish, Alex had taken the drink, she now has the ancient virus. Here, she sort of wanders the hospital where she doctors in a fugue. Her senses, especially sound, are heightened. I love the P.O.V shots we often get on American Horror Story, but these are so great. Alex can hear a woman’s pulse pounding in her neck, almost as if it could pop right through the skin.
Then – nasty – Dr. Lowe heads in to where the blood is stored. Kind of perfect, isn’t it? She’s a vampire now and essentially has an almost unending supply of blood without all the murder.
Yet she further decides to inject a young sick boy’s IV with a syringe full of blood. An unsettling moment, watching the boy shake around, speckled with what looks like measles possibly. And his eyes come upon, springing alive before the credits. A spooky sequence to start off this episode. Gotta love it.Donovan (Matt Bomers), with his mother Iris (Kathy Bates) in tow, shows up at the door of Ramona Royale (Angela Bassett). It seems the son wants to use his mom in order to help Ramona with her vengeance against The Countess. He is one truly scorned lover. I love how there are all these vampiric characters crashing against one another. Iris isn’t happy, though, she’s terrified. Though, Donovan brings up a good point: “She never looks at you. You‘re invisible.” Which is true, really. Iris is at the call of The Countess, but she is not a friend, barely an acquaintance. All boss. So this might be a damn good plan after all.
Does anything ever go the way it’s supposed to, though, in this series? No, no, no.
Then, in other ancient virus news, turns out the young boy Alex injected with the blood has made a speedy recovery. Well, is that a surprise? Certainly not.
Iris manages to get back to the Cortez where Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) chastises her a little. She can tell Iris is not feeling right, and mixes up “Liz‘s special sum‘in sum‘in.” Liz reveals the cocktail is blood with a splash of Triple Sec.
Poor Iris. Even though she was one of the people doing bad shit around the hotel (think: Swedish tourists), there’s been a consistently tragic aspect about her I find redeemable. The whole purpose of going to the Cortez in the first place, for Iris, was trying to save her son, and then she got roped into staying. And now – it’s for-e-ver.
Such a great meeting of the acting minds here with a solid scene of dialogue between Kathy Bates and Denis O’Hare. They’re two wonderful actors who I’ve enjoyed before American Horror Story. Yet Ryan Murphy/Brad Falchuk & Co. are able to bring out their best qualities here, giving them each very intriguing roles season after season.Oh, the bad little boy, Max, whom Alex saved has fed on his parents. Then off to school he goes. Awesome little scene right after we see his parents bled out on the floor, as Max digs his hands into eyeballs and guts at a table setup in his classroom; fake, of course. Still, there’s a creepy aspect to this moment. EVEN MORE INTENSELY UNNERVING – Max goes in a dark room with a young girl named Madeline, where he introduces her to a bit of the measles (or whatever the hell he had), as well as that tricky ancient virus. This begins on an insane outbreak of measles throughout the class. Plus, Max kills a couple teachers.
Some of the best gore we’ve seen yet in this episode! CREEPY CHILDREN – CREEPY CHILDREN EVERYWHERE. The part where they all attack and feed on the male teacher, blood spurting everywhere, his clothes soaked through… so damn good. Then, like there would be, absolute panic breaks out.
If anybody tells you there’s no wild horror in this series, promptly tell them to fuck off somewhere. Because this was one hell of a horrific sequence. It wasn’t all gore, either. Certain people want to try and act like the show simply goes for savagery over any substance. Wrong – the entire angle of what happens with the children, all those varied moments from the classroom to the chilling scene which follows as all the kids are brought out to their unsuspecting parents, they’re an amazing bunch of scenes. Truly full of gorgeous madness.
Detective John Lowe (Wes Bentley) is seeing the fallout from his little serial killer dinner party last episode. A Lieutenant (Robert Knepper; awesome) questions him on what exactly happened. Certainly the man is a bit disturbed by Lowe’s statements, involving John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer (et cetera). Lowe is a truly sympathetic character. Unless it turns out, as some believe online, John is the Ten Commandments Killer. Though, I think there are some time issues there that won’t play out correctly for that to be real. We’ll see! For now, I feel bad for John because he is being put through the ringer in so many different ways. He’s bound to snap, or fall into a vicious spiral which could lead to death.
A couple idiots show up to test Iris and her patience. Meanwhile, Tristan (Finn Wittrock) and The Countess are dressed up, to the nines, and heading out for Halloween; love Tristan’s Gary Oldman costume. Iris is clearly thrown off and nervous, while Tristan almost sniffs her out right there and then. Both of them, in fact.
What’s even better is the conversation Iris has afterwards with the douchebags who recently checked in. They want grilled salads and other things the hotel doesn’t offer. So, she enlists the help of Liz who really seems to know people well enough – these dummies are going to live to regret their stay, I would imagine.
“Bitches want pâté, pâté they shall have.”
Amazing bit of Liz Taylor here, as she gives us a look at the past, his old home life. Nick, her original name, was a medical representative. On trips out of town, he lived the life he WANTED while alone in the room. I can’t get enough of O’Hare. He is a constant treat, and it’s gold watching him do drag, the character finding himself.
Then once Countess shows up, things get even more interesting. She tells him “you smell like a woman“, but it’s not the perfume – “It‘s your skin, your blood,” she says. Such a dark yet also beautiful scene. We watch Nick become Liz Taylor in front of our eyes.
What’s most interesting to me here, above everything else, is how the Countess comes across as a helpful woman, someone who cares and loves and wants to be there for other people. Even when Liz is confronted in the hallway by the two men her former male self came to the hotel with, Countess kills them to save any trouble. Either way, Liz never went back to her life as Nick ever again. Neither did The Countess infect her. She and Iris bond over their respective strengths. He advises her to “teach that hipster couple some manners.” Oooh, I love this – delightful mischief! I won’t spoil this bit any longer. Wait and see the brutality for yourself.
Now former detective John Lowe wakes up in his bed, scratches across the chest, next to Hypodermic Sally (Sarah Paulson). He appears to not remember, until a moment later when the foggy memories of the previous night come back. Obviously Lowe went on a nasty bender, which led him up to the room where he surely had unprotected sex with a half-woman/half-ghost. All the while dildo drillbit man shows up in the mirror behind John to spook him out. Wouldn’t that be awful? Hard enough to get one off when you’re drunk, let alone seeing that eerie bastard around your room.
There are more rough nights ahead for John. I dread seeing the sad, tragic events which are bound to follow for him. But I’ll eat those words if certain internet theories come true later in this season.
Even sadder, Alex and Holden have a little moment together where the boy tells her “now you‘re like me.” It’s very touching, in the wrong sort of way. Not fuzzy. It is a dark conversation, especially with The Countess alongside. Slowly I think Alex is starting to comprehend the idea of eternity. All the same, I don’t think she’s fully grasping how long and drawn out that can be, and on top of that her son will grow old. He’ll be frozen as a child forever and she won’t ever watch him become a young adult, then a man.
An amazing episode. One of the best this season so far, I can easily say that. Excited to seem “Room 33”, as well as what “the thing” in there is – remember back in one of the first episodes, Iris made fleeting reference to something being kept in there? We’re going to find out next week.
Stay tuned with me, my fellow horror fanatics!