Psycho II (1983)

“I don’t kill people anymore, remember?”

Synopsis:
Declared legally sane after 22 years in a mental institution, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) tries to establish a new life for himself back at his motel — but as bodies begin piling up, he soon discovers that someone is out to convince him his dead mother is still alive…

Genres:

Review:
Three years after Hitchcock’s death, director Richard Franklin helmed this sequel-cum-homage starring two members from the original Psycho‘s cast: Vera Miles as Marion Crane’s vengeance-seeking sister, Lila, and — most critically — Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates. In his review of Psycho II, Roger Ebert notes that “the first thing is to put Alfred Hitchcock’s original 1960 Psycho right out of your mind” — a point well-taken to a certain extent, given that Psycho II doesn’t begin to scale the heights of Hitchcock’s groundbreaking masterpiece. At the same time, however, Psycho II is likely to be most enjoyable to those who love and remember the original, given that nearly every scene plays upon one’s intimate knowledge of camera placement, set design, and character development from the first film.

With that said, Psycho II actually works on its own as a reasonably engaging, campy thriller, with enough plot twists and nasty surprises to satisfy most horror fans. Perkins is note-perfect as an older, more sympathetic Norman, who we grow to genuinely care for — as does Meg Tilly’s sexy waitress Mary, who at first seems like the ultimate putz for daring to sleep over at Norman’s house, but whose true motivations for spending time around Norman are soon revealed. As long as one can buy the initial, highly unlikely premise that Bates would be released on his own, back to his childhood home, rather than to a halfway house, the remainder of the story gradually clicks into place, and ends on a surprisingly freaky, satisfying note.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Anthony Perkins as an older Norman Bates
    Psycho Bates
  • Meg Tilly as Mary
    Psycho Tilly
  • An affectionate homage to Hitchcock’s classic
    Psycho Homage
  • Plenty of unexpected thrills, chills, and twists
    Psycho Thrills

Must See?
Yes, as a noteworthy — albeit inevitably inferior — follow-up to Hitchcock’s famous thriller. Listed as a Sleeper and a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.

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2 Responses to “Psycho II (1983)”

  1. A (trick or) treat and a must!

    What’s most satisfying about this surprisingly compelling sequel (capably directed by Australian Richard Franklin) is that it has a terrific ace up its sleeve. Thanks to screenwriter Tom Holland, chances are you will have no clue what’s at the root of ‘Psycho II’. For those who know part one, references to it are here sprinkled throughout. And much fun is had with the legacy. There is also plenty of evocative imagery, even if certain sequences scream of a limited budget. An added plus is Jerry Goldsmith’s classy score.

    Longer than one might expect for a film of this sort, there is still no let-up. Things get esp. creepy in the last 30 min., and the ending is a knockout. Literally.

    Knowing too much more would spoil a good deal of the ‘fun’. ‘Psycho II’ may be thought of as “inferior”, but it works more than well on its own terms. It acknowledges the previous film respectfully, then puts everything in the spin cycle and comes up with something unique.

    Perkins does a great riff on his iconic character; it’s good to see Vera Miles return; Meg Tilly is here perfectly cast as well.

    And, if you’ve gone this far, you may as well take in the two remaining chapters: ‘Psycho III’ (directed by Perkins), and the made-for-tv ‘Psycho IV: The Beginning’. Both have their ‘charms’.

  2. This follow-up to Hitchcock’s classic was quickly dismissed by critics. How can anyone improve on the original? I believe this second installment (there would be a total of 4 sequels) has a superior screenplay (by future director Todd Holland), and cinematography that stands well to the first one. In fact, this is one of the few ‘great’ sequels to ‘classic’ firsts [another being James Cameron’s ‘Aliens’].

    The film keeps you guessing from frame one since Perkin’s character seems to be back to his old tricks. The smart subtext and jaw-dropping ending makes the Bates character one of the few movie psychos to truly warrant some looking into.

    QUOTE: Norman: “Mother? Is that you?”

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