Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Horror Movie Review: American Psycho

"I have to return some videotapes."
American Psycho (2000) is a movie I have seen many times since I started becoming obsessed with serial killers in my teens. It is probably almost as depraved as Poppy Z Brite's "Exquisite Corpse". When I was 15, depraved was exactly what I was looking for, but my relationship to this movie is a bit more complicated now. I hadn't even planned on watching this movie for my horror reviews, but when I saw it in my movie folder, it seemed so inevitable that I watched it immediately instead of the planned "Resident Evil".

"American Psycho" is a movie about a culture ('80s Wall Street) so self-involved that a man within it can kill "a lot of people" and even confess to it without anyone seeing him for the extreme sociopath he really is, without even his peers being able to tell him apart from all the other rich assholes.

This movie is a masterpiece and it's directed by a woman, Mary Harron. The screenplay was adapted from the book by two women. It won awards. It paved the way for Jeffrey Lindsay's Dexter. But it doesn't pass the Bechdel test, and I'm not sure how to feel about that. The movie straight-up hates women. Women are brutally beaten and murdered by the protagonist and the other men in the movie say things like, "There are no girls with good personalities." I think we're supposed to see that Patrick Batemen isn't really any worse than the asshole-misogynists around him. At least he's upfront about his sociopathy. His peers just talk about raping and murdering women while Bateman really does it. We are supposed to see how depraved and awful these men are. There's a deleted scene on the DVD wherein Reese Witherspoon's character treats Batemen with as much disdain and dismissiveness as most of the men treat the women in this movie and it takes a bit of the bite out of all the girl-hate in this movie, but it was taken out of the final edit.

I am disgusted watching this character, but you're not supposed to relate to or like him at all. It's sort of a feat to have a main character in a movie that you can't like because he has ZERO humanity, you don't care what happens to him, and yet you still like the film. It's possible that without this book-turned-movie, we wouldn't have Dexter Morgan. For that, I will allow "American Psycho" to exist. Some of the sardonic wit and even the constant inner monologue translated into Dexter's storyline later in the decade. Dexter is like if Bateman was likable, not sexist, and had some humanity. Now THAT is a sociopath I can get behind!

Minorities are only in roles of service in this movie, and even then only peripherally.

The music in this film is a fantastic list of '80s hits and underground dance tracks. Bateman also has several scenes wherein he cites facts about '80s pop he likes WHILE he's killing people with various scary tools. It is freaking hilarious to watch someone cut a peer to pieces with a chainsaw while delivering an in-depth analysis of Huey Lewis & The News. I don't care who you are.

Throughout the film, my range of emotions went seamlessly from disgust to smirky I-see-what-you-did-there to ooh-I-love-this-song! back to disgust again. I suspect this was the intention, but I still have problems with the treatment of women and minorities in this film. We could have at least had a scene or two with women in conversation with one another, whether they served as a contrast to the depravity of the men or they were exactly as bad as the men. Either way, the mere presence of women would have softened the blow of how sexist this movie appears.

The ending is very ambiguous, which is infuriating, but also the right choice for the film. At the end, you don't even know if he really killed anyone at all. What? Genius.

Aesthetics/Visual Effects: 3.5

Plot: 3.5

Characters: 2

Music: 4.5

Treatment of Women/Minorities: 1

Rewatchability: 3


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