Today I'm going to be covering some of the major highlights found in one of today's most classic horror/psych-thriller cult films: American Psycho. Ah, where to begin with this film? This is one of my favorite psych thrillers I've come across in a long time. It's said to be a horror film w/ elements of dark comedy, accompanied by that edge-of-your-seat feeling. I agree with this description, as it is very morbid and dark, and contains elements of the insane, yet still surprises you at times with some dry, off-the-wall humor.
The first time I saw this film, I really enjoyed Christian Bale's convincing role of quirky, anti-social, and completely psychotic Patrick Bateman: a shallow, self-obsessed yuppie with an overactive imagination and way too much time on his hands. In my opinion, Bale really captures the essence of Bateman's character - he's lonely and fears rejection on an unhealthy level. He's extremely apathetic and portrays a man who is no longer in himself - with hardly anything holding him together, other than his skin and bones.
He's a very interesting character and although he has a hard time relating to others, the audience has no trouble relating to him. In other words, I think we've all gone through the phase of needing acceptance and his charcater demonstrates this in an odd, but familiar way, such as staying in a job he doesn't like, following the soical norms of sex, drugs, and alcohol, and feeling the misery of knowing that no one understands you. In Bateman's case, this trait is latent and therefore manifests itself in a very macabre way and this is where our analysis begins!
There are quite a few American Psycho analyses on the Internet and many have different interpretations of the film and what was intended by the ambiguity of the ending. It seems everyone has a different viewpoint. For purposes of the analysis, if you haven't already seen this film, I'll summarize it fairly quickly so you have a general idea.
Basically, Bateman is not really bateman in the sense that he really is a hollow shell and he's looking for a way to feel full, so by thinking that if he fits in with everyone else, he won't feel so empty about himself. This subsconscious plan of Bateman's completely backfires as he tries to release the pressure he feels from society and its various entities. Bateman's idea of release includes engaging in homicidal affairs that manifest themselves in the form of murdering homeless individuals, prostitutes, and a co-worker of his, Paul Allen. Not to mention the fact that murdering wasn't enough for Bateman; what mattered most to him was the way he murdered his victims. Long story short, Bateman ends up murdering many people and calls his lawyer to confess. After all is said and done, His lawyer thought the call was a prank and informs Bateman that Paul Allen is alive and well. At the end, Bateman seems confused and doesn't know what to believe anymore and the film ends with the audience not quite knowing what to believe either.
There's a lot of tiny details from this film that I think are vital for the analysis of the character and film, so it's better if you've seen it or at least read the book.
Now, there are several theories floating around. The first being:
A. Bateman killed everyone he confessed to killing, but nobody would believe him.
B. He killed nobody and it was all in his head.
C. He only killed some of the people he confessed to, but not all, which would exclude Paul Allen.
This movie is extremely convoluted and each theory is definitely backed up with logical and cohesive arguments. Although I don't think one could ever really pinpoint the exact truth of Patrick Bateman and his behavior, one can certainly make well-educated guesses.
I think the entire point of the movie is that Bateman had so many sick and twisted thoughts that he needed a way to release them, so he created his own reality outside of the real world - one where he could release the disgust and anger he felt toward others and continue living "normally", whether he killed everyone, only some, or if it was all just dreamed up in his psychotic mind.
Bateman is obviously suffering from some sort of anti-social disorder with narcissistic, sadistic tendencies. This we know for fact. By the end of the film, not only is Bateman unsure what to believe, but the audience is taken back as well. So, if Patrick is confused about what really took place, the audience would be no different.
Number one, the found notebook filled with Bateman's sick fantasies could have been what he used as his tool - meaning that he killed everyone in his mind and on paper, but not in real life, perhaps because he would be too concerned about being caught and needing to stay with his job in order to keep his status of "fitting in". However, his fantasies could have become so real that he believed he truly did kill all of those people and therefore called his lawyer confessing because the burden was too heavy to bear. His notebook could have also turned into a diary of sorts. He committed the crimes and recorded them. What the audience does know for a fact is that some things were in his head, but what we don't know is to what extent. For example, the ATM machine saying, "Feed me a stray cat."
One thing that doesn't quite make sense is why would Bateman kill everyone but Paul Allen? There would be only one explanation, that his hatred for Paul was so strong and influential that he took his anger out on everyone but Paul for fear of repercussions (Because he's so important). However, this would mean that Paul Allen was really the center of Bateman's universe and we know that's not the case because the audience is aware that Bateman is filled with hatred for everyone, not just one, specific person. Something important to note is the philosophy of Bateman's entire character. He is wholly obsessed about outward appearance, not just regarding himself, but everything from fancy dinner reservations, who he's seen with in public, and even something as trivial as whose business cards are better. If appearance was so important to him, this could explain why he killed everyone but Paul because the prostitutes and homeless people most likely wouldn't be connected back to him as Paul's death would.
It is probable that Bateman murdered everyone and he lived such a powerful lifestyle that those with power were able to keep it covered up, as not to taint the family name/remain in everyone's shallow, self-centered world.
One more thing that doesn't quite add up is the fact that he didn't kill Jean when presented with the opportunity. If he's filled with as much hatred as the audience is led to believe, he wouldn't have spared her life. He wouldn't have felt anything for her, unless she was "relatable" to him. However, this would imply that he wasn’t the cold shell he claimed he was because this action indicates the presence of a conscience.
Another interesting point is that most everyone throughout the film mistook Bateman for someone else and no one thought Bateman capable of murder. This could truly be the case and Bateman was just sick in the head and never acted upon his fantasies, or he became enraged that no one believed him and murdered the people to try to prove a point. However, in the end, Bateman's last look at the camera seemed to indicate that he was almost giving up - that he would never truly fit in with his "friends" and his "job". Bateman's love for music also indicates a release of sorts. Also, his love for porn fed his overactive imagination. If you think about it, he never fit in. He would drown out the world with his music. No one understood his jokes; no one remembered his name, etc. He was a shell because that's how everyone viewed him, so he acted the part.
Overall, it appears that Bateman had too much to sacrifice to risk killing those people. In the beginning, he was bragging about his posh lifestyle, with his expensive suits, facial products, etc., meaning that if he killed those people for real he would never truly be accepted, so he had to hide his sinister intents in order to "fit in". However, as long as he looked put-together on the outside, the inside clearly didn't matter.
To conclude, there are many theories that prove plausible and I don't think any could be proven for fact. However, it is interesting to speculate about the different possibilities. Personally, I believe it was in his head the whole time. The mind is a very powerful thing capable of anything, restrained only by the limitations we create for it. In the end, the imagination can create its own reality truer than the real one. In other words, he could have truly believed that he killed everyone and when he was told that Paul Allan was spotted in London after his supposed murder, I think Bateman flew off the handle - he had a psychotic break and didn't know what to believe anymore. Basically, he exaggerated everything to the point of their climax and then nature took its course. For example, when Jean was in his apartment and said that he looked fit and that didn't need to lose any weight, Bateman's response was, "You can always be thinner." Imagine how many places he could use this type of example in his life. You can always have more expensive suits; you could always have more perfect skin, etc. His entire life was just one, big exaggeration in order to fit in with the crowd. Although it seems out there, maybe the lesson to take away from this film is the dangers of peer pressure and what we can reduce ourselves to in order to fit in and be accepted.
There's my interpretation. What do you think? Do you think Bateman was guilty and did what he confessed to? Do you think it all happened but only in his mind? Or do you think he only killed some of the people? Please, share your analysis and what you think really happened in a comment below.
Well, that's it for this post. Thank you so much for reading! Your feedback is always appreciated! See ya in the next one!
A.K.A. The MovieMonster