American Psycho is a very strange film: it’s eerie, unnerving and even outright terrifying, yet, balanced in a way that feels effortless and even harmonious, it is unjustifiably and completely inappropriately hysterical in parts, often at the same time. It is a film that occupies a very particular world of its own, one that feels detached from our own, yet so similar at the same time. This is a film that has gained cult status and is an all-time favourite for a lot of people, and to be honest, I’m not surprised, because in all it’s gory, disturbing and mean-spirited glory, there’s something strangely infectious, and undoubtedly something to love.
Mary Harron’s direction oozes both style and substance, with cinematography that’s incredibly uncomfortable yet distinctly distant, engaging us and cleverly transporting us into the mind of Patrick Bateman with plenty of both subtle and not so subtle techniques, from editing, music, specific visual language or Bale’s perfectly overstated leading performance, to something as simple as the strong underlying feeling of disorientation that is gradually built up all throughout the film, constantly making you question what came before. There’s a really haunting surreality that underpins everything in the film, punctuated by the almost perpetual ambiguity to it all.
Practically everyone in the film feels like a character, a formulation even, aside from Patrick Bateman who, as terrifying as he may be, feels like a real human being, giving us as twisted a world view as Bateman’s all through the film, seeing our ‘protagonist’ as one thing, and everyone aside from him as something else entirely. Bale’s ability to shift from one extreme emotion to another so effortlessly is fascinating to watch, with his stern seriousness being just as captivating as his inconsistent eccentricity.
Whilst I cannot comment on how well American Psycho holds up the book, in everything from its grimly dark sense of humour, to its precise visual style, to its riveting performances, there’s no doubt that this is one of the best, and one of the most original films in its specific sub-genre.