31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2017, Night #16 – Psycho II (1983)

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Director: Richard Franklin

Writer(s): Tom Holland

Studio/Distributor: Universal Pictures

Budget: $5m

Box Office: $34.7m

Release Date: 3 June, 1983

IMDb Rating: 6.4/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 59%

UK Blu Ray release? Yes

Cast

Anthony Perkins – Norman Bates

Vera Miles – Lily Loomis

Robert Loggia – Dr. Bill Raymond

Meg Tilly – Mary Samuels

Dennis Franz – Warren Toomey

Trailer

Plot According to IMDb

After twenty two years of psychiatric care, Norman Bates attempts to return to a life of solitude, but the specters of his crimes – and his Mother – continue to haunt him.

Inertia’s Insight

23 years after donning his Mother’s wears and wielding a kitchen knife at anyone who came knocking at the Bates Motel, Norman Bates is released from a psychiatric hospital, declared fit to re-enter society, despite protests from family members of his victims. He returns home, to a new and unrecognisable world, attempting to fit back in and resist the calls of his dead Mother that seem to whisper to him at every turn…

23 years is a long time for a sequel – one that no-one ever really asked for. Psycho is a perfect film. Film historians, critics, teachers and fans have poured over the genius of Hitchcock’s ‘original slasher’ masterpiece, and it is still referenced, parodied and lauded to this day. So why a sequel?

Robert Bloch wrote a sequel to his 1959 novel which sought to deride the Hollywood machine and its production of splatter films. In retaliation, Universal Pictures produced their own sequel scripted by Tom Holland, who later bring us much more worthy films such as Fright Night and Child’s Play. Here, we get a sequel that no-one needed.

The film opens with Hitchcock’s footage, the original shower scene from Psycho, almost like we somehow need reminding of past events. It’s nice to see Hitchcock’s mastery again, which is sadly not replicated for the rest of the film.

The first time we see Norman it’s a bit of a surprise; confirmation if you needed it that Psycho happened 20+ years ago. Gone are the boyish good looks, replaced with an older man who still retains his charm but none of the original menace behind the doughy good looks.

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Norman returns home despite protests from his Doctor and the families of his victims. The first time he pulls in to the car park of Bates Motel, it is strikingly odd to see the motel and the house on the hill in stark colour. The house loses its edge in technicolour, the looming menace of the house lost to the detail of the paintwork.

When he first meets Mary at the diner, it’s clear to see that Norman (and Perkins) has still got it. Even after 22 years in hospital, the charm is there – the only worry is where the charm leads. It’s odd to enjoy Norman returning back to normal, but credit where it’s due, the filmmakers really take the time to embed Norman back into society, and despite the cracks starting to show, we’re actually willing him to be well and enjoy life.

But life has moved on without him. The decline of his motel as a drug haven and a brothel is testament to this. Though he quickly dispatches with the manager (who himself seems to be dispatched by ‘Mother’ later on) and attempts to restore the motel to its former glory, the world around him is completely different now; a world he tries to catch up with, only furthering the cracks in his sanity.

His relationship with Mary is sweet, and despite our concerns seeing her have sandwiches and milk with him (never ends well) and then a shower, it does develop into a sweet Father/Daughter relationship. It’s when she takes a shower that things go down hill…

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I have three massive problems with Psycho II. The first is the titillation. When we see her taking a shower it has echoes of Marion Crane. The way in which that scene was shot is perfection (and don’t forget, we are reminded of this at the start of this film). No nudity, no gore, just a shrieking score and pitch perfect editing conjure everything you need to feel about that scene. Here, though she doesn’t meet her demise in the shower, we have nudity. Immediately this throws out the window any suspense that could be created in homage to that original scene. It’s unnecessary, and only goes to prove problem number two.

The gore. Hitchcock knew that less is more, as evidenced by the infamous shower scene as well as pretty much the entire movie. Here, just as soon as we’ve been flashed tits and ass, the first on-screen death occurs and we see everything. Psycho is often considered the original slasher film, and in the intervening years since its release, that sub-genre exploded with gore galore. Psycho II is obviously trying to play catch up, whilst forgetting the brilliance of its predecessor.

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Thirdly, after the first hour it just becomes so BORING. We’re anticipating Norman’s transition back to cross-dressing killer, and though there’s a plot twist, more kills and a shocking ending, it just fails to entertain.

The ending paves way for more sequels. Whether they are warranted or not is another blog entirely. Perkins is the standout here, bringing heart and humour to a chapter in Bates’ life that we just didn’t need.

Inertia’s Ideal Score ( out of 5)

★★

Trivia

  • When Mary and Norman first go in to Norman’s mother’s room, before they turn the lights on, a silhouette of Hitchcock can be seen on the wall
  • Producer Hilton A. Green originally suggested Jaime Lee Curtis to play Mary Loomis due to her being the daughter of Janet Leigh and her success with Halloween
  • The reflection of young Norman Bates in the doorknob when he flashes back to his Mother’s poisoning is played by Anthony Perkins’ son Oz.

Quotes

NORMAN BATES: Hello, Mother.


Tomorrow: Night #17 – The Conjuring 2 (2016)

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