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Wayback Wednesday: American Psycho (2000)

It’s like “Sex and the City” but with far more murder.

If you’re as obsessed with the fall as I am, then you know that at this point in mid-August is around the time you start thinking about Halloween. Right now my head is filled with thoughts of creepy costume ideas, Jack-o’-lantern designs, and what kind of candy I want to stuff my face with on October 31st. And of course, my mind is filled with all the horror movies I’m going to watch in October. It’s going to be spook-tacular! But because I’m impatient, I decided to tease my palate and choose a horror movie for this week’s Wayback, one I’d never seen before. Let me tell you, I don’t think I will ever forget this, my first viewing of American Psycho (2000). 

Credit: / Lions Gate Films / Columbia Pictures / Columbia TriStar Film Distributors International

Based on the novel of the same name by Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho tells the story of Patrick Bateman, a young and wealthy investment banker in New York City in 1987. Presenting himself as just another charming playboy, Patrick works to conceal his gruesome other life, a life in which he explores his homicidal and hedonistic desires.  

Just a disclaimer, I watched the UNRATED version of American Psycho on Amazon. I have no idea how it differs from the original except that Amazon claims it to be one whole minute longer in runtime. Does that make a difference? I have no idea. To be honest, I knew nothing about this movie before going in. Truly my only piece of knowledge about American Psycho is how in the 20 years since its release it’s become a major cult classic among movie fans. Now that I’ve seen the movie for myself I can totally see why American Psycho is considered such a cult classic. First of all, it’s a black comedy which is a beloved movie genre that while awesome, doesn’t always translate to popularity among the masses. But the darkly comedic and offbeat tone that American Psycho creates is wildly entertaining and thoroughly rewarding if you have the attention span and the open mind to appreciate it. If there’s one thing that American Psycho does perfectly it’s nailing that amusingly twisted dark and comedic tone. It’s so effective. You can literally tell that Patrick is winding up to brutally murder rival businessman Paul Allen, and yet, I was cracking up throughout the scene because of how hilariously the movie sets it up. I think American Psycho is for movie fans of a very specific taste. Like Adaptation (2002), I can easily see how this could either be someone’s favourite movie or one that they would never want to watch again. Even though I would strongly recommend giving American Psycho a rewatch not only to relish in the satire of the 80s New York elite, but also to catch all the tiny details of how Patrick’s psyche begins to fracture. By the way, check out my review for Adaptation, here

I don’t think that American Psycho gets enough credit for how brilliant the screenplay is. It’s fantastic. Deeply satirical of everything from horror movies to the privilege of wealthy white men, it’s a script that will have you hanging on every word. I was constantly on the edge of my seat anxiously trying to guess where this whirlwind of a story was going to go next. The fact that I had no idea what direction the story was going to take was something that I liked and appreciated about American Psycho. In the middle of the movie I could have seen it ending with Patrick getting away with his crimes, with him going to jail, or even with his death. In a genre that arguably has more clichés than any other, unpredictability in a horror story is a huge asset. You could see how on paper the idea of a naked Christian Bale covered in blood wearing only sneakers and carrying a chainsaw would be something that would be featured in a cheesy B slasher movie, but because American Psycho is so fantastically written and acted it’s surprisingly the perfect amount of realistic terror. There’s an almost Alfred Hitchcock-like quality to American Psycho in both the writing and the direction. The movie poses fascinating ideas and notions that will have you questioning just how sane your most “normal” friends really are. Is your local barber secretly hiding a double life as an axe-wielding homicidal maniac? American Psycho may be a slow burn horror-wise, but it’s ultimately a satisfying and chaotic descent into madness and mayhem. 

Christian’s Bale turn as Patrick Bateman is one of those great performances that is always mentioned when discussing the actor but I had never gotten around to witnessing it until now. Bale is fucking phenomenal. In the beginning he plays such a convincing douchebag that if we didn’t already know he was the killer I would have put money down that he would have been the first victim. He’s utterly believable as both the seemingly sane playboy and the delirious serial killer. Seeing how Bale effortlessly plays such drastically different sides of the same character will make your skin crawl. I’m shocked that he never received a major nomination for his amazing performance. Especially considering all of the in-depth monologues he gives! 

Bale’s incredible performance as this methodical psychopath / sociopath reminds me of other unhinged, calculated villains like Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter or Heath Ledger’s Joker. Characters who are able to distance themselves from reality and humanity and let their inner monsters out. It’s eerily fascinating the way someone so evil can appear so ordinary. The idea of the wicked truth hidden behind a facade of perfection is something I really enjoy in horror stories and was the highlight of the movie for me. Certainly not every old intellectual property or movie has to be made into a TV series, but I think that American Psycho would actually work extremely well as some sort of miniseries. I mean, they did Hannibal (2013 – 2015) and that gained a strong legion of fans as well as critical praise. I just think that doing a series of 10 hour long episodes would be great because there is so much you could dive into when it comes to the extremely complex and deranged character that is Patrick Bateman.

Okay, I have one final thought. I made a very interesting observation about the character of Patrick and I need you guys to stay with me on this one: He’s an upper class New Yorker with expensive taste who spends his nights going to eclectic restaurants with his friends and commenting on their personal relationships through his own voiceover. Is it in any way possible that director and co-writer Mary Harron based the movie version of Patrick Bateman off of Carrie Bradshaw? Is Carrie the real American Psycho?! The similarities are there!

Are you a fan of American Psycho?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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