Beyond the Slimy Wall
American Psycho II: All-American Girl
By Stephanie Star Smith
May 27, 2004
We here at BOP are an eclectic group, and our tastes in movies run from the serious cinephiles to the foreign-film aficionados to niche film lovers. Thus was born the idea for this column, devoted to horror films of all shapes and sizes, but concentrating on those B- and C-grade films that mainstream reviewers disdain, but are the bread-and-butter of every spook movie lover's viewing. So come with me as we venture beyond the slimy wall, uncovering the treasures - and burying the time-wasting bombs - that await those who dare to love the scare.
American Psycho II: All-American Girl
Hollywood has always been great at recycling, repeating, remaking and re-imagining films, plots, characters, you name it. If a movie has even a modicum of success, or strikes it rich in the home video market, then it’s going to get a sequel, or get remade at some point, or sometimes both. But an interesting adjunct trend had developed in the horror genre, where filmmakers take a title of a not-necessarily-successful film and create something that has little, if anything, to do with the original project.
American Psycho was Brett Easton Ellis’ follow-up to Less Than Zero. Before it was even published, rumors began to circulate about the excessive violence and gore which Ellis employed in his tale of a serial killer. The outcry against what was perceived as an attempt to glorify violence became so loud that the original publisher, Simon & Shuster, pulled the book from publication shortly before its scheduled release. A rival publisher, Vintage, smelled the opportunity to make good use of free publicity and quickly put the book out itself. There was a great hue and cry over how the society had degenerated that we could entertain ourselves with such a lurid tale, with critics weighing in on how insightful the book was in painting the portrait of a young, successful man who is so inured by the violence in everyday life that he thinks nothing of killing.
What nobody bothered to mention, especially to the good folks at Columbia TriStar who were producing the film version, is that what the novel was the most was boring. The great crime of the book was not its scenes of graphically-described violence but that it was so mind-numbingly dull that the depiction of the crimes was the only thing that kept people awake. The movie, when it debuted, did not improve upon this, and it quickly disappeared from theatres, only to see an even briefer stay on local video store shelves.
But realizing there was no need to let a perfectly good title go to waste, the direct-to-video American Psycho II: All-American Girl was released by Lions Gate in 2002. The only connections to the original - and tenuous ones at that - were the idea of serial killers, and that the story begins with the titular female witnessing Patrick Bateman, the eponymous serial killer from the first film, murder her babysitter as his final crime before being hauled off by the cops. Which, considering the ultimate banality of the source material, is a very good thing indeed.
What the talent behind American Psycho II brought to the story was a wicked sense of gallows humor; in fact, the scripters’ tongues are so far into their cheeks they’re nearly coming out the other side. Our title heroine, Rachael, provides a voiceover of her thoughts throughout much of the film; while such a narrative is often annoying as hell, when it’s done right, it can add an extra dimension to the proceedings. And in this case, it is not only done extremely well, but is done in such deadpan (pardon the pun) style as to enhance the black comedy of terrors happening on-screen. Now I wouldn’t spoil the fun by giving too much away, but our Rachael comes away from her encounter with Bateman with a fascination for serial killers, and the conviction that it is her calling to stop them. She has a plan, and nothing and no one will get in her way. And therein lies the fun.
The cast is uniformly excellent, particularly Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner, as a criminology professor who shares more in common with the captain of the Enterprise than simply the same actor. And the filmmakers keep you guessing as to exactly what’s happening and who’s behind it until literally the final frame. It’s not often one finds such an excellent blend of suspense, intricate plotting, good acting and witty dialogue in a horror film period, much less one that’s gone straight to video, so American Psycho II: All-American Girl is a treasure, and a must-see for all fans of horror films, especially those of you who have a special yen for the slasher sub-genre. And even if you figure you’ve seen every way there is to kill a human, and the slasher flick no longer holds your interest, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill...anything. It is definitely worth you spending the scant 88 minutes of its running time to check out the fun.
I see by the shadows falling from my bust of Pallas that our time is up. Until next time, then, when we will once again venture Beyond the Slimy Wall.