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Cthulhu says: "Sadistic sociopath goes on murderous rampage while indifferent world offers tacit approval... I'd pay full price for that one!"


American Psycho

Starring: Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe, Chloe Sevigny, Reese Witherspoon.
Directed by: Mary Harron
Screenplay by: Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner
Adapted from the novel "American Psycho" by Bret Easton Ellis

Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) is a mover and shaker on Wall Street. He dines in New York's finest restaurants; has a fabulous scenic apartment; both his girlfriend and his mistress are beautiful and shallow. Bateman and his colleagues compare business cards like a group of teenage boys mutually measuring their penis sizes in a high school locker room. He has fully immersed himself into the pop culture and self-indulgent trends of the fabulous 80's, in a vain attempt to achieve self-fulfillment through the pursuit of material gain.

Underneath it all, Bateman suffers from "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern" syndrome. Somewhere in his drive for the materialistic ennui of his era, Bateman has lost all sense of personal identity. Now he finds himself just another faceless, nameless clone of the high powered corporate world, vainly trying to distinguish himself from the crowd by one-upping his contemporaries.

His attempts to be noticed soon find Bateman acting out in an orgiastic ritual of mass torture and savage slaughter. And orgy it is. Bateman casually hacks away at a despised business rival with an axe, all the while touting the virtues of Huey Lewis and the News like he was Casey Kasem on the "Weekly Top 40". The Bateman persona- that penultimate reflection of all the best traits society tells Patrick he must embody- slips easily and seamlessly between the cutthroat corporate world and the murderous world of cutting throats. Even Bateman's attempts to confess his crimes are met with disbelief- how can a man be considered a sociopath, when the society he lives in is itself a mere fašade?

To its credit, American Psycho opts to keep its violence largely implied. To indulge in gratuitous, graphic imagery would only detract from the film's true horror, which is the cold, callousness of materialism and the eradication of the human spirit that accompanies it. Ironically, though his victims might wish he would "reach out and touch" them in a more compassionate manner, Bateman's acknowledgement of them is still more human than the shallow interactions that takes place between his fellow men and women in New York's High Society. Bateman's murderous impulses are the desperate cries of a man trying to achieve some semblance of connection with his fellow man, but who has lost all touch with reality due to the unfeeling world in which he has been raised.

On the negative side, the film is poorly served by its narrative, without which the visual imagery would be more than sufficient to convey the inner workings of its main character. The end result makes it seem as if the filmmakers weren't convinced that their audience would be able to grasp the subtle nuances of their characterizations. Given the cynical underpinnings of American Psycho, perhaps their concerns over moviegoers sophistication is warranted, but it seemed glaringly unnecessary.

Voiceovers aside, however, the film is a gloriously successful black comedy. The plot twist at the end may leave some viewers scratching their heads, but its message is clear- the real crime is not in Bateman's often ludicrous efforts to be noticed, but the indifference of society to the beauty and worth of the individual man.

Cthulhu Has No Pants!