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 American Psycho needs to be seen and appreciated, like a serpent in a glass cage.

-Richard Corliss


American Psycho is a humorous, blood-curdling psychological thriller, which is a social commentary on the sexual insecurity of men, their shallowness, their obsession with materialism to conceal their apathy. It’s central character, Patrick Bateman flushes out his repressed anger from corporate culture via killing people that seems more like a hobby than a necessity. Bateman, played by Christian Bale, has emerged as one of the most iconic characters in film history. It might come as a surprise to you that Christian Bale (the original choice for Patrick Bateman was Leonardo Di Caprio) was warned by many that it would be a career suicide for him to play the lead in a film like this.

There are obviously potential spoilers as it is an attempt to decipher American Psycho.

Even after 15 years of its release, the much ambiguous ending of American Psycho calls for debate amongst fans. As the narration progresses, it becomes more violent and begins to take gory turns, builds up to a shocking conclusion and in the end leaves the viewers questioning exactly how much of the film was real and how much was fantasy. Did Patrick really kill anyone? Or was all this just his imagination; a fantasy of how he wanted to deal with his corporate frustration? Was Paul Allen really dead? We have tried to look at all the possibilities and decipher it for you and come up with the theories that make more sense both logically and psychologically.

Before we postulate the theories and work on them to possibly conclude which can be more accurate, we have to understand the sequence of events leading up to climax scene.

1. Patrick Bateman visits the ATM to withdraw money, but ATM pops up the message,”Feed me the stray cat.” Bateman doesn’t hesitate to aim at the kitten but before he could shoot and feed it inside, he is interrupted by a grossed out old woman. That old woman becomes Bateman’s first victim that night.


2. Then Patrick is chased by police men in their cars which later turns into a shoot out. He kills a couple of policemen and blows up one of the squad cars, which doesn’t seems possible to do with a single pistol. He, himself, is oddly surprised and stares at the gun in disbelief for few seconds before checking the time and running into the office.


3. He enters the random office (not the Pierce & Pierce where he actually works) where security guard addresses him calling,”Mr. Smith.” He kills the guard and the janitor so as to not leave any witnesses before he proceeds to his own office.

4. Bateman enters his office cabin and hides from the helicopter search lights, under his desk. He makes a call to his lawyer, Harold (Stephen Bogaert), to confess his heinous act of brutally murdering the escort girls and one of his colleagues Paul Allen (Jared Leto).

The twist in the tale comes the very next day which is still a bone of contention for 15 years.

1. The dead bodies are no more there in the storage compartment of the flat.

2. A realtor is initially shocked to see Bateman and explains that nobody named Paul Allen actually lived there. She politely asks him to leave the apartment.

3. His lawyer Harold mistakes him for Davis and calls his message as a prank as Bateman is a dork who can’t dare to commit such an act. Harold walks off flap-doodling and rubbishing Bateman’s claim that he killed Paul as he has had dinner with Paul ten days ago in London.

4. Jean (Chloe Sevigny) finds a notebook that seems to be reflections of her boss’ psychosis and we are suddenly left to wonder if it’s all just his fantasy.


Now, we have three possibilities here.

First, it was all fantasy and Bateman made up everything that reflects his psychosis.

Second, Bateman actually killed everyone except for Paul Allen.

Third, Bateman actually killed everyone and Harold mistook Paul Allen for someone else.

I think that Patrick Bateman is actually a serial killer and he did kill Paul Allen.

There is no doubt that Patrick Bateman is a Psychotic. It is clearly indicated in the first act of the film when he asks a bar girl for alcohol and mumbles, “You’re a fucking ugly bitch, I want to stab you to death and then play around with your blood.”


Patrick Bateman is a self obsessed, eccentric and an affluent guy who works in a financial firm. He and his colleagues lead such a superficial life that they show off their visiting cards to mark their vanity. It is not limited to visiting cards, but also booking a posh restaurant, wardrobe or even as simple a thing as a tie. They often care nothing about anyone else and that might be the reason why Bateman’s own lawyer didn’t know what his name was, mistaking him for someone else and possibly he do not remember who Paul Allen might be. Why not, it can be true. So, possible Bateman did really axed the head of Paul Allen in such a brutal but poetic fashion.


Detective Donald Kimball (Willem Dafoe) drops the case after finding that the protagonist has an alibi. The call made by Bateman from Paul’s landline stating that he flew to London can be an alibi.  Why did he kill Paul Allen?  Simple, Patrick loathes Paul Allen which is established in first act quite firmly, when they talk about their characteristics of their suits.


Sequence of events that I have described earlier leading to the climax is just a fringe of his imagination. No ATM pops up the message to feed a stray cat, he shrugs in disbelief that his pistol could do so much of damage. He is just a sadist with extreme delusions and a vivid imagination. What is even more horrifying that no one believes his confession. Everyone gets busy with their own shit and no one cared to acknowledge that a dork like him possibly could do something like that. At the end, American Psycho not only deals with the superficiality of the society but also extreme shallowness of oneself that clouds belief in your own self. That is very much depicted in the last scene, when disgruntled Patrick spits out the fact about society that is doomed in vanity of materialism.

“There are no more barriers to cross. All I have in common with the uncontrollable and the insane, the vicious and the evil, all the mayhem I have caused and my utter indifference toward it I have now surpassed. My pain is constant and sharp, and I do not hope for a better world for anyone. In fact, I want my pain to be inflicted on others. I want no one to escape. But even after admitting this, there is no catharsis; my punishment continues to elude me, and I gain no deeper knowledge of myself. No new knowledge can be extracted from my telling. This confession has meant nothing. “


American Psycho Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, MetaCritic

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