“American Psycho,” Mary Harron’s 2000 adaptation of the infamous Bret Easton Ellis novel, was already dogged by controversy before filming even began. Ellis’ novel was so graphically violent and loaded with misogyny that many people assumed the film adaptation would be akin to a snuff film. But Harron and co-writer Guinevere Turner delivered something very different: a darkly funny, only occasionally violent film that reworked the general essence of Ellis’ book. Some have even suggested that it is better than the book itself.
Despite the fact that the film “American Psycho” has been studied and analyzed for many years, some people are still unsure about the ending.
That’s by design: the conclusion is ambiguous enough to allow for multiple interpretations. If you have any further questions, I am happy to answer them.
What Happens In American Psycho’s Ending
The ending of American Psycho explained that understanding the finale requires a specific timeline of events. When Bateman awakens from his crime spree and subsequent confession, he rushes to Paul Allen’s apartment to clean up the mess he left behind. Bateman, on the other hand, discovers no remains, and a cold realtor informs him that no “Paul Allen” owns the apartment in question and asks him to leave. Bateman goes to lunch with his coworkers and runs into his lawyer, who misidentifies him as someone else and assumes the voicemail was a joke aimed at Bateman. The lawyer accuses Bateman of being too “square” to have committed the atrocities in question, and when Bateman repeats his crimes, the lawyer leaves the conversation, annoyed by the joke going too far. Because Paul Allen’s body isn’t in the apartment and the cops appear to be leaving him alone, Bateman returns to his conversing colleagues—and it’s in their conversation that the key to understanding American Psycho’s ending is hidden.
What The Filmmakers Say
In what is arguably the biggest twist related to American Psycho’s ending, writer/director Mary Harron and co-writer Guinevere Turner have gone on record saying that they don’t love how the film’s ending came together in retrospect. This is because they believe the ending is too ambiguous, and they dislike the fact that people leave the story wondering if it was all a dream. They want it to be clear: Patrick Bateman is unquestionably a serial killer.
Harron addressed divisive opinions about the ending of American Psycho during an interview with Charlie Rose a few years ago, and she explained that it was never her intention to try to get audiences to reconsider the death and murder that occurred throughout the film. Instead, she feels she was unable to match the uncertainty in the original novel’s ending, and that the movie’s point was not made clear enough.
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We Have Three Possibilities Here
- It was all a figment of Bateman’s imagination, and everything that reflected his psychosis was made up.
- Except for Paul Allen, Bateman actually killed everyone.
- Harold mistook Paul Allen for someone else after Bateman killed everyone.
Did Patrick Bateman Really Kill Paul Allen?
Both Harron and Ellis have stated that the question of whether Patrick murdered a colleague named Paul Allen is intentionally left ambiguous in order to reinforce the meaning of American Psycho. Patrick could have murdered a coworker and no one would have noticed or cared because he worked on Wall Street, which is amoral and high-powered. Wearing the wrong outfit was a bigger mistake in his circles than costing millions of homeowners their life savings, which means Bateman and the viewer will never know for sure whether he killed a colleague because inhumane acts mean so little to his coworkers and friends. According to the ending of American Psycho, Paul knew he was going to kill Patrick when he mistook him for Marcus Halberstram, reinforcing the themes of projected affluence and identity.
Did he actually kill people?
One of the more popular interpretations of American Psycho holds that Patrick Bateman never actually killed anyone and that the murderous actions we see take place in his unhealthy mind. While there is no way to be certain that Bateman did murder people, there is a lot of evidence to suggest that he is, in fact, a serial killer.
Early in the film, Bateman encounters a random woman crossing the street and proceeds to creepily walk alongside her. In the following scene, we see Bateman arguing vehemently with some non-English-speaking dry cleaners about not bleaching what appear to be bloody sheets. He loses his cool aggressively and threatens to kill the dry cleaner. When an unexpected visitor inquires about the stains, Bateman nervously claims they’re “cranberry… cran-apple…” but they sure look bloody. Bateman, who appeared frazzled, had probably killed someone the night before, most likely the random woman on the street from the previous scene.
Even less debatable is the first time we see Bateman actually kill someone. Bateman stabs a homeless man in the chest before kicking his dog to death after asking him why he doesn’t get a job and taunting him relentlessly. In comparison to other murder scenes that follow, this one stands out as firmly grounded in reality, with nothing indicating that it’s merely a sick fantasy.
How Much Of American Psycho Is Real?
Many viewers interpreted the M. Night Shyamalan-style twist in American Psycho’s ending as a straightforward “it’s all in the untrustworthy narrator’s head” trope, and Harron has expressed frustration over how common this reading of the film adaptation is, despite the fact that American Psycho’s ending is intended to be ambiguous. However, Bateman’s murder of an unfortunate vagrant is entirely believable, and even his very public murder of two prostitutes is the type of crime that people in positions of power have been able to erase from existence, which heavily contributes to the meaning of American Psycho. Patrick Bateman would be expelled from high society circles if he continued to murder colleagues, so the killing of his coworker is more likely an imagined exploit. On a metaphorical level, however, this is not entirely correct.