Skip to main content

The Greatest Love Of All: Or Why American Psycho Works As a Book & a Movie

I've never explicitly written about "American Psycho" - although I have talked a bit about it in some of my plan papers. Considering my movie pedigree, I feel like this blog entry is long overdue.

Let me first write that I love this movie. I crave it. I watch it multiple times a year. I never get tired of it. I have bits of dialogue repeating in my head on a daily basis. I've actually used, "I have to return some video tapes" as an excuse to get out of an already awkward situation.

Confession: the first time I saw "American Psycho", I hadn't read the book. As someone who was raised with a love of reading, I feel like a terrible person writing that. But wait! Don't judge me too harshly; I have since read the book. Actually, I read it almost immediately following my first time watching the movie. I needed to know - what was I missing? A movie this good must have come from a book that's twice as amazing. I opened the book, prepared to come out on the other side hating a movie that I loved.

I wasn't disappointed: Mary Harron managed to get the gist of the book, work it into a movie, and not lose the key elements that made Ellis' novel superb. Impressive. But the thing she lost is the thing that made Patrick Bateman truly relatable, his fear. The movie failed to capture the supreme, unrelenting terror that drives him. His desperation. Bateman is living in a world full of pretention, populated by phonies and fakes. He's terrified to be himself. He's terrified that his peers will see him as less than themselves. He's terrified of being different.

Each and every character is fighting to distinguish themselves as the best: best dressed, best apartment, best job, best car, best drugs, best friends, while somehow staying completely in step with everyone else. Keeping up with Joneses, so to speak. Be great but not too great. Be cool but not too cool. Be different but not too different. Tough world to live in.

While you can see his struggles to fit in, I feel the movie really missed the depth of his social anxiety. Bateman's not really on a path of mass destruction, as the movie shows him to be, he's on a path of self destruction.

Pause for a summary here: I enjoyed the book and I still love the movie.

Now to take it apart at the seams:
The director
For many years, the horror genre has been attacked for numerous reasons. In the 80's, with the emergence of slasher films, audiences pounced on how degrading horror is to women. (More on this in my previous blog.) Some of us rational members of the female persuasion are simply tired of the "exploitation" arguments. Some of us appreciate horror. And some of us (Mary Harron) roll up our sleeves and jump into the mix.

That's right, I've written it twice now in this post, American Psycho was directed by (gasp!) a woman. If you don't know anything about her, she's worth checking out - very cool lady.

The actors
Christian Bale is perfect. His intonation is flat and sarcastic - you spend much of the movie wondering if he's making things up or just doesn't care. But when he does break, his panic is palpable. Finally - emotion!

On a side note, I'm sad that "Batman" has ruined his career. And I know that this is an unpopular opinion as nearly every nerd out there thinks it was his best role. But I honestly feel he's gone downhill since becoming Batman.

The story
I'll always consider this movie a companion to "Fight Club". And both companions to "Alice in Wonderland". (If Alice's iconic quote doesn't sum up these 3 stories, I'm not sure what does: "I can't explain myself, I'm afraid, Sir, because I'm not myself you see.")

Also close to my heart is the purveyance of the theme of "the other". The outsider skirting society's rules.  And a great segue into my final thoughts for today.

Unlike my usual wrap up, a witty one-liner, I'd like to tangent for a moment about a horror film archetype that I find particularly interesting: the Final Girl. And with this tangent I'll answer a question I've heard about "American Psycho" many times: "Why doesn't he kill Jean, his secretary?"

The quick and dirty version: The Final Girl is just as she sounds, the final living character in a horror film. Why does she live? Because she's smart, resourceful, and completely outside of society. Why does Jean escape the killing rampage? She's a lite version of the Final Girl; she does nothing special to save herself, simply being herself saves her.

A psychopath can feel love but, only for a woman that society deems as monstrous as himself. And on that bombshell - I'm out.


Popular posts from this blog

Rebuttal: 17 Disturbing Horror Movies You Will Never Watch Again

When I'm not watching movies, I'm reading about movies. I stumble across all kinds of articles, blog posts, book excerpts, etc. in my quest to absorb as much movie knowledge as possible. Now, I'm snotty and loud-mouthed and opinionated but I'd never begrudge another human their opinion. Seriously. You're absolutely welcome to have any opinion about any thing you want. However, I must warn you, if I think your opinion is stupid, I'm absolutely going to say so. I've recently stumbled on an article completely  brimming with so many idiotic opinions that I'm actually compelled to craft a response. Here's the gist of the original article: there are some horror movies out there that are so disturbing , you'll only ever want to watch them once. I've have taken her original list and refuted her claims without pulling her entire article over. You can read the original article here . Let's start at the beginning, with her opening statement


Alright friends and readers–this one is probably doubly filled with typos and grammar errors because I wrote it while angry. Good luck and happy reading. There are unpopular opinions in every realm. As a film student, you can truly strike a nerve when you say things like, "I fucking hate the self-indulgence of independent films and the way people idolize them." Or, you know, "Low lighting and slow pacing does not a good movie make." Or whatever. You can of course, objectively, understand how this happens. When you are creating art–when you are outside the system  so to speak–you are free to explore things (subjects, techniques, etc.) that may need to be addressed and that freedom can become intoxicating and go to one's head. While it may seem only right  or only fair  to respect and accept each creative endeavor that every artist undertakes, it is unreasonable to believe that the world will remain forever patient with the self-obsession artists have. Th

"I live, I love, I slay & I am Content."

Let me tell you a little about myself; something real about the home I grew up in. There were lots of people around all the time. I was the only child. And, thankfully, I wasn't treated as such. Much like today, I was just the shortest member of the household. But what's that really mean? Above and beyond it means that I had many influences growing up. For this entry, my father's influence is the most important. My father loves arms and armor. He loves history and mythology and the art of warfare. And as any good father would, he shared these passions with me as a kid. I remember him making me wooden swords to play with. We played chess together. And I remember him reading me Greek myths and comic books before bed. He also shared his nerdy love of scifi, fantasy, and horror movies with me. For all of this, I am grateful. And I am now passionate about the same things. Spoiler alert: the following statement is not a dick joke. I have a love of swords. And barbarian