Psycho II (1983)

While Alfred Hitchcock didn't have a problem occasionally remaking his earlier movies he's not really known for sequels.  Truth be told, although there were entire series of movies in horror and comedy in classic Hollywood, they were for already popular characters or for films that weren't exactly considered the studio's top tier productions.  I don't know if Hitchcock ever said anything positive or negative about sequels, but more likely it just never crossed his mind to do one.

Psycho inspired the slasher genre, although in truth, despite the controversy it stirred up in pushing certain envelopes at the time, it was still largely a traditional movie.  It contained far more skin than most mainstream movies, killed its protagonist about halfway through and was much more violent than many American films, but it also contained large stretches of characters discussing the action as well as the whole explanation at the end on why Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) did what he did.  While still a good movie and deserving of its reputation it is still old-fashioned filmmaking that occasionally is difficult for modern audiences used to a more stripped-down approach.

Hitchcock passed away in 1980 but Robert Bloch, who wrote the book the original Psycho was based on, was still around.  Bloch published a novel called Psycho II in 1982, which featured Bates escaping from the mental hospital in order to prevent a movie being made about his life.  Bloch tried to get it filmed but, since the novel was a send-up of the modern horror industry in Hollywood, no one really wanted to make it.  Still, with the slasher genre in full swing and the original Psycho still being quite popular it was obvious there was a demand for a sequel.

Norman Bates is found cured after 22 years of institutionalization despite the efforts of Lila Loomis (Vera Miles), Marion Crane's sister, and others to keep him in.  He returns to his family home in Fairvale, California and is employed in a diner owned by Emma Spool (Claudia Bryar).  When Mary Samuels (Meg Tilly), one of the waitresses, has boyfriend problems Bates says she can stay in one of the motel rooms for free.  Unfortunately, the current manager, Toomey (Dennis Franz), has been turning a blind eye to illegal activities.  Figuring the rooms unsafe he gives Mary a spare bedroom in the house and fires Toomey.

Soon Norman decides that he would rather concentrate on restoring and reopening the motel, despite it being off the beaten path.  Problem is someone claiming to be his mother starts calling and leaving notes.  At first he believes it is Toomey, but once he disappears it becomes evident that there is more at work, including a conspiracy to prey upon his fragile sanity so that he will again be incarcerated.  Mary does what she can to protect him and keep him sane while it becomes clear that conspirators aren't the only people trying to involve themselves in Bates's life. 

Richard Franklin, who had met Hitchcock and was highly influenced by him, was an Australian director who had recently had a minor hit with Road Games, a highway-based take on Rear Window starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Stacy Keach.  He is the perfect fit for this movie as he still is able to set up some shots that recall the original while still keeping it his own movie.  It is decidedly bloodier and a much more modern thriller than Psycho, but it also avoids going the route of the contemporary movies it inspired by having the killer just knock off random teenagers.  

Tom Holland's script wisely avoids retreading the original movie, this time making Bates the protagonist and not the actual killer in the film.  We get that reveal at the end, but it is made clear throughout that Bates, at least this time around, is the innocent victim of a number of people who just can't seem to leave him be.  This allows Anthony Perkins to broaden his performance.  We learn much more about Norman this time around without someone doing a big speech at the end, although there is a bit of a reference to that scene when Sheriff Hunt (Hugh Gillin) goes over his theory of the events. 

This was Meg Tilly's first major Hollywood feature and she is great in it despite the fact that Perkins wanted her fired due to her seeming arrogance during the production, often questioning why Perkins was everyone's focus.  She also didn't get along with Franklin, but despite this she is a surprisingly strong lead for a lady in a horror film.  Her role is pivotal both in the actions against Bates as well as providing some kind of moral grounding for the audience.  Her presence also makes it clear throughout that Norman is not involved in the actual murders. 

Overall this is a nice follow-up to the original.  I just wish they didn't cheapen it by repeating the shower scene from the original prior to the credits, as it is one of the most famous movie scenes in history and anyone, two decades later, going to see this movie at least knew that scene even if they had not watched Psycho in its entirety.  It is nice if one has, but Psycho II is enjoyable on its own, largely due to purposely being a worthwhile sequel rather than trying to turn Norman Bates into the next Jason. 

Psycho II (1983)
Time: 113 minutes
Starring: Anthony Perkins, Meg Tilly, Vera Miles, Robert Loggia 
Director: Richard Franklin



Popular posts from this blog

Zack Snyder's Justice League (2021)

Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)