Monday, December 04, 2006

American Psycho (2000) review

This is a personal-favorite, though I wonder how-much of it is really horror. It certainly has elements-of-horror, but I see it as more of a personal-allegory, and a social-one that would do Herman Melville proud. OK, it is horror! Social-horror: these are the people in-charge of our world! For those familiar-with the novel, this is a more toned-down affair by Mrs. Harron, a superb-director, who sticks-to the social-themes and implications of the story. There are some scenes of gore, but they are significantly toned-down and minimized, and I think the move was a wise-one. Sometimes, gore detracts too-much from the narrative and the themes of a film, but not here. Reagan America seems pretty innocent to us nowadays, but it was rife with greed and cronyism, and even some of the disastrous military-adventurism we are seeing today (Grenada, 1983, the first-time the press was barred-from an invasion). Sadly, the militarist-culture of Reagan has continued. The seeds of present-day scandals and corruption were being planted during the 1980s.

The poor were neglected (and still are), and the mentally-ill were "deinstitutionalized", while military-spending blossomed, and there were financial-scandals-galore--then finally, Iran-Contra and a stock market crash. In the cities, a bull-market of speculation had exploded, and there was a materialist obsession with "luxury-items", high-priced art, and ridiculous cuisine and fashion-trends that would make a Flapper blush-with-shame. 1980s-fashion is best summed-up as: big-shoulders, no-compassion. Clothing was absolutely ugly, trashy and vulgar, which reflected the times, a Hobbesian-hell of winner-take-all. This, then, is the world of the character Patrick Bateman. People didn't want to know, hear, or talk-about social-problems in the 1980s, which has taken a 180-degree-turn nowadays, a crucial-difference. This--at-least--has changed. The laws of physics provided the soil.
But, there is also a touch of hilarity in Bateman's monologues on the virtues of Phil Collins. The novel spends an entire-chapter on his ridiculous-obsessions with the horrible pop music of the time. It's accurate, too, I knew a number of half-dead lumps who loved that garbage.

What Harron argues, finally, is that Patrick Bateman is unremarkable as a serial-killer within-the-context of the immorality he is surrounded-by. His exact-job is murky, and the firm he works-for is only referred to as "Pierce & Pierce" in the film. It also appears he is the benefactor of nepotism from his father, and appears to be creating nothing. What should be noted is that the director's husband produced corporate videos for "Merrill-Lynch, Pierce & Pierce" (which she states on both DVDs), so there is more-familiarity between Ellis's book than we would expect. Indeed, I am friendly-with people who work-at "Merrill-Lynch...", who confirm that the corporate-culture depicted in the film is accurate--so accurate, when the film came-out, their colleagues opined that they "could relate to Patrick Bateman". Make of that what-you-will. So, it isn't a stretch to see the similarities in how corporations devalue human-life with that of a serial-killer. There are similarities in-psychology here, such as viewing people as nothing-more than objects (which Bateman does on numerous-occasions, including watching porn) to be used as one wishes. Maybe this is the heart of horror in "American Psycho", both the novel and the film.
The best-scene is the where he murders the Black homeless-man, a short-walk to what the suits were doing from their desks to the poor, both then-and-now.

Ellis's novel came out of his being immersed in this New York-environment (Harron lived there at the time too), and he spent more time than he cared-for with people who shared the attitudes of the Bateman character. He saw murder as a short-step from the amorality and immorality of the Wall Street playboys, and Patrick Bateman can be viewed as a composite and abstraction of these types. By 1987, the stock-market crashed--it was the other Black Friday. Without New Deal controls and protections, we would likely have had another Great Depression (wait, the other-one is coming). 1987 was also the year that Iran-Contra was revealed, and the 1980s-dream which was a nightmare for many. The Reagan-80s were over. And yet, it all continues today in-spades: the corruption, the murder, the lies, and the amorality of those who feed on us. It is significant that the film ends in 1987, and that Bateman has "learned nothing". Horror-indeed.


  1. i enjoyed the movie but i loved the book. patrick bateman was BEST in {empire of the sun}.

  2. Yeah, I loved both too, Boo. I saw Empire of the Sun when it was in the theaters, so good! The Japanese Military was out-of-control in the 1930s-40s, very scary. Christian Bale is definitely one of the best actors alive today, he reminds me of Gary Oldman when he was the same-age. As long as he only does so many Hollywood movies, he should be ok.

  3. and stay away from being batman but thats just IMHO.

  4. He's done better, I loved The Machinist, though I was constantly worried for him while watching it. It was a step beyond Deniro, a little scary how thin he was! Just an incredible actor, possibly the best of his generation, we shall see.