Psycho Shampoo (Gus van Sant, 1979, USA)

Psycho Shampoo is the first film directed by Gus van Sant. The film was made in 1979, as part of a presentation by a theater group in Los Angeles. Van Sant graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1970 and then spent some time in Europe. From Europe he went to Los Angeles in 1976, securing a job as a PA to director Ken Shapiro. It would not be until 1985, when the director was approaching his mid-30s, that he would finish his first feature film Mala Noche

Psycho Shampoo is positioned as a commercial for shampoo. A woman peeps out from behind a shower curtain and says that she is all out of shampoo. A man responds, telling her is all out of shampoo as well. He then tells her to "try this!" and we are treated to a reenactment of the famous shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho - complete with Bernard Herrmann's infamous score. The woman falls to the floor as Janet Leigh does in the original film. Except for this time, when the camera spirals out from her eye, we see the placement of a bottle of "Psycho Shampoo". "New Psycho shampoo - it takes care of dandruff, and then some!" The advertising voice reads. 


Van Sant of course has a deep history with Psycho. He followed up the immense global success of Good Will Hunting with a shot-for-shot remake of Psycho - a remake that was by van Sant's admission, an experiment. This experiment was met with poor box office returns and even poorer critical responses. It must have impacted van Sant, as he returned to a kind of Good Will Hunting type movie with Finding Forrester in 2000. Only after Finding Forrester did van Sant move again into strange and avant-garde cinema. 


5/10

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