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Monday, January 23, 2023

‘American Psycho 2’ – Reclaiming the Overhated Sequel as a Campy Slasher Comedy

Slapdash, direct-to-video horror sequels cropped up like weeds in the 2000s, but no title from this particular era continues to receive as much flak as American Psycho 2 (sometimes subtitled All American Girl). As people probably know by now, this began as an original movie called The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die before someone at Lionsgate had the bright idea to make it into a sequel to American Psycho. To say critics and audiences back then hated the decision would be an understatement. Yet in this time of constant reevaluation of overhated cinema, maybe Morgan J. Freeman‘s American Psycho 2 isn’t a complete misfire. Beyond the panning and massive studio meddling sits a dark and sometimes fun comedy that was never given a fair chance.

“Angrier, deadlier, sexier” says the tagline for American Psycho 2, but this lambasted sequel is far less lurid than its poster suggests. Before the present-day plot begins, the protagonist’s younger self is first seen in the past; Rachel Newman is brought along on her babysitter’s date with the homicidal Patrick Bateman (obviously not played by Christian Bale). As her babysitter bleeds out, Rachel takes an icepick to the unsuspecting Bateman. She then leaves the crime scene, never telling anyone where she was or what she did that day.

Later in college, Rachel (Mila Kunis) is put on the fast track to working for the FBI. All that stands in Rachel’s way are three other students in her behavioral studies program. But if Rachel can become her FBI-agent-turned-professor’s new TA, she’s practically guaranteed an acceptance to Quantico. Therein lies the main character’s problem; believing she can do good in the future, Rachel does bad things right now to achieve her dream. Her plan to win involves not only a murder spree all across campus, but also mind games that trap both Professor Starkman (William Shatner) and a distrustful campus counselor (Geraint Wyn Davies).

american psycho

Image: Lionsgate

American Psycho was an aggressive and innovative satire about avarice and capitalism in the ‘80s. It blends cutting and insightful humor with shocking violence. Director Mary Harron punched up as well as reclaimed the scandalous source material, making sure her adaptation had its own identity. Once a misunderstood movie, critics have, by and large, come around to see American Psycho in a new light. Meanwhile, American Psycho 2 doesn’t concern grander themes about the state of society. This is no time capsule of a specific social or economic period, either. No, the sequel is straightforward and devoid of profound commentary.

Realizing American Psycho 2 was screwed over by studio tampering should afford it some mercy. After all, the studio ruined the movie’s chance for individuality by forcing a connection to something well-regarded and far more unique. There was no way this once unrelated story could measure up, even with retrofitting; the choice to sequelize was sprung on the cast and crew during production. With the initial shock out of the way, though, perhaps everyone can finally reassess the sequel. That tall order requires mentally excising the Bateman bits sprinkled throughout, and finding the remains of The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die.

Rachel is no Patrick Bateman. Christian Bale delivered an intense and full-bodied performance that many people still consider a career best for the actor. Bale had plain inspiration and drive for the role, whereas Mila Kunis was stuck in an unfortunate situation out of her control. The movie she signed up for had been twisted into something else, so her tepid performance could be a reflection of the behind-the-scenes changes. Regardless, Kunis has her moments here and there; she charms her way through an imperfect script, and, at times, even genuinely comes across as creepy.

American Psycho 2 mila kunis

Image: Lionsgate

American Psycho 2 doesn’t possess a novel story; it plays somewhat like a younger version of Cindy Sherman’s black-as-coal comedy and workplace slasher, Office Killer. What the sequel lacks in originality, though, it makes up for in occasional wry humor and visual gags. From Rachel strangling Robin Dunne’s entitled character with a condom — topped off with the oft quoted “ribbed for her pleasure” one-liner — to the amusing mental face-offs between the villain and her older male adversaries, the script is quite funny when it wants to be. Of course it has nothing on Bateman’s notorious, ax-wielding monologue about Huey Lewis, but few things in life are as effective.

American Psycho 2 isn’t exempt from the usual problems associated with DTV sequels. It feels and looks cheap, the acting is mostly unremarkable, there’s no distinct visual style to speak of, and the music soundtrack is too on the nose. The movie was shot in twenty days, so these shortcomings aren’t all that surprising. Would everything have turned out differently if the creatives had been allowed to make The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die? Maybe, but unless a Bateman-free director’s cut surfaces, no one will ever know.

As a continuation, American Psycho 2 fails to live up to its beloved predecessor; that was inevitable as soon as some higher-up made a foolish decision. But as a campy and quirky “good for her” comedy with a slasher element? That is something this disparaged sequel has going for itself.

Horror contemplates in great detail how young people handle inordinate situations and all of life’s unexpected challenges. While the genre forces characters of every age to face their fears, it is especially interested in how youths might fare in life-or-death scenarios.

The column Young Blood is dedicated to horror stories for and about teenagers, as well as other young folks on the brink of terror.

american psycho 2 movie

Image: Lionsgate

The post ‘American Psycho 2’ – Reclaiming the Overhated Sequel as a Campy Slasher Comedy appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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