PSYCHO 2 (United States 1983)

Psycho-2--DVD-MenuA sequel to “Psycho” was a pretty daring prospect, since Hitchcock’s original is held in such high regard. The filmmakers wisely avoided getting pretentious about the subject matter. Don’t forget, Hitchcock himself regarded “Psycho” as a black comedy, and “Psycho II” maintains a more obvious sense of humor than the original.

I appreciate seeing the old house, and everything else, in colour too. It adds a pleasing continuity to its predecessor. The sets are very similar, so the passage of time has not detracted from the atmosphere of the 1960 original. Nothing is too jarringly different, fashion-wise either. The dialogue is more trashy of course and the clothing more casual.

It’s not played entirely straight, especially by Anthony Perkins. Naturally Perkins was the only one who could play Norman Bates, since he had become synonymous with the part. The plot finds Norman being released from the sanitarium after 22 years of incarceration, much to the chagrin of Lila Loomis (Vera Miles), who apparently made off with Marion’s boyfriend, Sam, after Marion was discovered to have been murdered by Norman.

Rehabilitated to the point where he’s deemed fit to live among society again, Norman returns to the only place he knows, the little motel just outside of Fairvale. The hospital has placed him at a part-time job in a diner not far from the motel, and here he meets a young naive waitress named Mary (Meg Tilly). Thrown out of her apartment by her boyfriend, she needs a place to stay and is taken in by Norman, who is happy to have the company.

Psycho II

When Norman fires the sleazy manager who is running the Bates Motel (Dennis Franz), the man turns up dead, and this begins a series of murders that bear a strong resemblance to the murders committed by “mother” all those years ago. Is Norman cracking up again? Or is something more sinister going on? The script has a few weak points, most of which require a very large stretch of the imagination to account for the hairpin turns of the plot.

Even though it might not be entirely logical, the acting in the film makes up for it. Anthony Perkins is wonderful as Norman, who is just as compelling as he was in the first film. Mary manages to form a touching friendship that takes a surprising turn halfway through the film, when we realize her background. The film has a couple of suspenseful scenes that don’t rely on the trendy graphic violence that was typical at the time.

But eventually the plot goes for gore at the conclusion, incorporating several twists and shockingly outrageous on-screen kills. I don’t think the film would work without the fact that we genuinely care about the characters. Despite Mary’s agenda, you can tell that she really likes Norman, and maybe even admires him for the way he’s tried so hard to make a recovery from his mental illness. When the story ends, I was surprised at how very real it was to see Norman’s sadness at losing his new friend.

Perkins also echoes the “is he mad or isn’t he?” theme of Hamlet, although by the end of the movie there’s no doubt about the answer to that question. Revisiting the locations from Hitchcock’s original is interesting enough, but “Psycho II” works well on its own. It’s one of my favorite sequels to any film, and a great movie to revisit every once in a while. Director Richard Franklin, cinematographor Dean Cundey and composer Jerry Goldsmith all deliver the goods too. My favourite line, and there are many amusing ones, is : “You smell nice, like toasted cheese sandwiches.” The screenplay ain’t Shakespeare, and you shouldn’t expect it to be, but it does get the job done.

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