Psycho II review by Matt Fuerst


Congratulations! You made it to Hollywood via a successful horror flick. What are you going to make next? Well, the answer is obvious: a sequel. Sequels are pretty ubiquitous throughout the horror genre. There are quite a few reasons for this: Horror films are generally relatively cheap to knock out, and therefore quick to be profitable. If you've got the winning formula once, you mean-as-well go back to the well again, right? Additionally there is a higher than average level of "fanboy-ness" in the genre. There is an element that will darling your franchise no matter what, and often times the worse the quality plummets the more they champion it. However, no one would really classify Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 Psycho as a horror film. Yes, it certainly had it's horrific elements, but Hitch being "the man", saying he directed a straight horror movie would seem like a stigma attached to his resume. It took 23 years, and I imagine the death of Hitch (who died in 1980, while Psycho II was released in 1983) for Psycho II to come to light. What can you do after the master has had his hands in the pie? Let's find out...

We meet up with good old Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins reprising his role) on the day he is released from the mental hospital. Since he's all cured, it's no problem throwing him right from the frying pan and into the fire, right? Bates returns to the motel and house that he grew up in, and the original Psycho took place in. His doctor, Bill Raymond (Robert Loggia) has set up a job for Norman as a kitchen assistant to try to encourage Norman to socialize. Norman's first day on the job and he meets what must have been considered a hot momma in 1983, Mary (Meg Tilly) a waitress at the restaurant. Fate is a nasty little bugger and before you know it Norman has a roommate in Mary. Lookit that, not 12 hours out of the looney bin and Crazy Norman the convicted murderer has a woman shacking up with him. And I can't even get a date with a $50 bill pinned to my lapel.

We learn pretty quickly that not all bags are fully fastened and overhead bins are latched in Norman's mind. He starts receiving hand written notes from Mother and sees her walking around the house. These effects are done in such a manner that we're not exactly sure what's going on. Is Norman completely making these things up? Notes seem to disappear before anyone else actually sees them. Is something torturing Norman? Or is Norman actually sending these notes to himself, and the events of Psycho are simply playing themselves out yet again.

The first 50 minutes pretty much play out as a character study along these lines. How many cards short is Norman's deck. Around the 50 minute mark we get to see a few killings, and again, we're not exactly sure is they are even really happening. No bodies seem to turn up, no direct evidence is present that they are even happening. Is Norman imagining them in the third person somehow? Once the killings start the movie shifts from a character drama and tries to spice things up with a few plot twists. People enter into the picture as potential suspects, then leave.

I'll leave the plot synopsis off at that point. There is a final resolution to what is happening, but it (feels like it) takes a while to get there. Once again, once you reach sequel status you can't argue that it's not a horror movie, there was a never a Beaches II (thankfully enough, I went through a whole pack of Kleenex in the first one). However, there aren't many horror aspects to Psycho II. Yeah, Mother comes on the scene and does a little chop chop (one scene involves a bloodless knife stabbing to the face) but it's not going to satisfy gorehounds. If you wanted a real in depth study into the Norman Bates character, Psycho II may satisfy.

Psycho was directed by the master. It really does seem to be the right movie at the right time in his career as the shower scene alone has achieved fame onto itself. Creating a sequel to it would be an insurmountable task, a feat director Richard Franklin seems to acknowledge right off the bat. The opening sequence is indeed, the shower scene from Psycho lifted from the movie. While it serves as a "quick intro" to the people out there who had never seen Psycho, I tend to think it was used moreso to acknowledge that Psycho II was never going to top the original, just merely play the game in the same sandbox.

Psycho II was recently re-released on DVD. It was an early DVD release back in the day, being available only Full Frame (1.33:1). The new releases of Psycho II and Psycho III are now anamorphic widescreen. The print is clean and fairly nice, no complaints.

4 out of 10 Jackasses
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