Sunday, July 04, 2010

Psycho II

Twenty-three years after Hitchcock shocked audiences with PSYCHO, Universal brought Anthony Perkins back to the backlot for what had to have been considered the least likely sequel of all time up to that date. Many purists were offended when they heard the news, but in the hands of Hitchcock protégé Richard Franklin (ROADGAMES), PSYCHO II turned out to be not only a better film than expected, but a box office smash for Universal in the summer of 1983.

Norman Bates is released from a mental institution and returns home to the Bates Motel. At his new job as a short-order cook at a greasy spoon down the road, he befriends fragile waitress Mary (Meg Tilly) and invites her to spend the night at his house. Perkins is wonderful to watch as Norman, every damn twitch. I think he’s playing the role as comedy, but not camp, and it’s hard not to root for the poor nutbar Norman, who really does want to get his shit together and function normally in society.

Norman believes he’s been cured. So does his shrink (Robert Loggia). But some people, including motel manager Toomey (Dennis Franz as Dennis Franz) and Lila Loomis (Vera Miles), the sister of Marion Crane (played by Janet Leigh in PSYCHO), insist on giving him a hard time. Soon, more knife murders occur, and the suspicious sheriff (Hugh Gillin) comes snooping around. Norman thinks he’s innocent, but how can he be sure?

PSYCHO II is a terrific sequel. It’s a logical progression of events from the first movie about a character we’re generally interested in. It calls back to scenes from PSYCHO, but you don’t have to have seen it to enjoy this one. Franklin really was something of a master of suspense, and he—with welcome assistance from composer Jerry Goldsmith—created a nifty old-fashioned thriller with gory touches to fit into the slasher-happy ‘80s. Perkins is fantastic, and Dean Cundey’s experience as director of photography on HALLOWEEN made him a perfect fit for PSYCHO II. Although the film is lit flatly in places, it makes sense for it to as a continuation of a low-budget picture shot in 1959.

Original PSYCHO author Robert Bloch wrote a novel called PSYCHO II, but Tom Holland (FRIGHT NIGHT) wrote an original screenplay for the film, one with clever twists and turns that lets us play along with Norman, who doesn’t know anymore about what’s happening that we do. And of course Holland included a shower scene. It just wouldn’t be PSYCHO without one.


Chad Carter said...

Really dug PSYCHO II. I'm gargantuanly looking forward to owning the DVD.

I have to add too that I think PSYCHO III was a pretty damn good movie too. After that, eh. But those were some good Anthony Perkins' starrers.

Ed Gorman said...

A lot of critics knocked this film but I thought it was nuanced and gripping all the way.

Chad Carter said...

Also, the PSYCHO II Robert Bloch book is fantastic. Bloch followed it up with probably the greatest Jack the Ripper story ever written, NIGHT OF THE RIPPER. An unsurpassed suspense writer and huge influence to me.

christian said...

I always thought this was as good as a sequel could be especially the final moment.