Will the real Norman Bates please stand up?
Few subgenres hold as strong a preoccupation in cinema as the slasher film. The formula is simple. A young innocent in the shape of an unsuspecting female stumbles through the dark while a savage psychopath, usually armed with a butcher’s knife, stalks from behind. For good measure, toss in a few heavy breaths underneath the purposefully pursuing POV of the killer.
Born from the demented perversions of Michael Powell (Peeping Tom) and Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho), the slasher film has undergone several iterations. From the classy (Halloween) to the crass (The Last House on the Left), audiences are not afraid to show up for the cheapest of thrills. Horror remains the last bastion for micro-budget success. Spend little, gain big.
The sexual predator is the great boogeyman of Hollywood. However, he no longer wears the moniker of Jason Vorhees or Michael Myers. The reality is far more insidious. Harvey Weinstein, and creatures like him, feed off the desperate and wield their power to mask their atrocities. To make amends for the despicable environment they’ve bred, it was only a matter of time till the film industry transformed their black sheep into a demon to be vanquished.
As reported by The Playlist, the maestro of slashers, Brian De Palma, is crafting a screenplay with a Weinstein stand-in hunting from the shadows.
“I’m writing a film about this scandal, a project I’m talking about with a French producer. My character won’t be named Harvey Weinstein but it will be a horror film, with a sexual aggressor, and it will take place in the film industry.”
De Palma is just coming off his latest film, Domino. Digging deeper into his interview with Le Parisien, plus the aid of Google Translate, it is obvious that the event has left him feeling quite a bit of rage towards the system that employs him.
“It was a horrible experience. The film was underfunded, it was far behind, the producer did not stop lying to us and did not pay some of my staff. I do not know at all if this feature will be released…Hollywood has changed. Dinosaur and superhero movies are made for kids! You can not make serious movies over there. Unless you are Spielberg and you are the studio.”
The last two decades have been a struggle for De Palma. He has not had a bonafide success since partnering with Tom Crusie on Mission: Impossible. From there he bumbled about with Snake Eyes, Mission to Mars, Femme Fatale, and The Black Dahlia. Barely anyone noticed Redacted and Passion.
Is there still room for De Palma’s particular brand of entertainment? Here’s an even better question: are we ready to see how he’d insert Weinstein into his formula of sexual predators? The resulting film will no doubt be ugly, and I fear the anger-fueled message the director is fuming to deliver.
De Palma has made a career out of aping the fantasies of Hitchcock. While all of his New Hollywood compatriots (Coppola, Lucas, Malick, Milius, Scorsese, Spielberg) could be labeled as deeply referential filmmakers, De Palma’s movie obsession was singularly focused. From the moment he saw Vertigo in 1958, De Palma could not shake the psychological minefield Hitchcock was so eager to throw himself upon and was all too happy to hop into his footsteps.
De Palma and Hitchcock are forever tied together, for better and worse. Through Sisters, Dressed to Kill, Body Double and more, De Palma was allowed to sink to depths briefly scratched by Hitchcock. The butcher’s knife could not only plunge through the flesh; it could linger inside, slivering grotesquely through a smorgasbord of final girls. In De Palma, the pervert was let loose through the playground.
Harvey Weinstein is not Norman Bates. He cannot be dropped into a horror film script as a means of jolting the audience. The reality of his nature and our cultural complacency to his creation is still too fresh a wound in our national conscious for me to believe that De Palma can rework him into one of his slashers. Of course, 1960s America probably wouldn’t have trusted Hitchcock to squeeze Ed Gein into Psycho’s mad child either.