Making a sequel to one of the best suspense thrillers of all time might sound like a silly thing to do. And indeed it is. The original Psycho will forever be a fantastic, and very intelligent, thrill ride. It was made by a master of cinematic techniques, who knew how to trick the mind and evoke a full body response to whatever was being presented on screen. Unless you have all the parts working together again, your sequel will never be as good. Or as psychotic.
The sequel is Psycho II, and it is no way as good as the first one. But if you can forget about the first one, and view this movie on its own, then it will not seem as redundant and useless. In fact, it’s actually quite good.
The events of the movie take place twenty-two years after Norman Bates was institutionalized. He has now been released, having improved his conduct and mental state. At his hearing, Lila Loomis (played by Vera Miles) vehemently protests his release, but the court won’t hear it. At first, this protest just seems like a little entertaining gimmick to open up the movie. “Oh look! There’s Vera Miles again.”. But the incessant behaviour of Lila proves to be more than just aggression. It will later border on insanity. I will say no more. The movie, like the original, has its own bag of dark secrets, with twists and turns that aren’t as sharp as before, but just as effective.
Norman is played by Anthony Perkins again, which is a good thing, because he knows the role, and we know him. He delivers much of the same from Psycho, which is also a good thing, but his voice has matured, and his face is more weary and cracked. He is just as accommodating too, as when a young waitress from his place of work chooses to spend the night at the good old Bates mansion. There is still sweetness in the way he offers her his sandwich, and milk, and a room to sleep in. The girl is Mary (Meg Tilly), and she, too, has her own bag of tricks that I will not upturn.
What I can, and will, divulge is that Norman is a much more sympathetic character this time round. He is charming when the movie opens, and dare I say it, he is normal. But as the story moves forward, he is slowly driven to insanity again. He becomes a pathetic man. I found myself rooting for him, and urging him not to make certain choices. The movie, directed by Richard Franklin, is scary, yes, and creepy, and it takes us into the bowels of the Bates mansion, more so than the first movie does. The house is very eerie, and its old fashioned decor only adds to its haunting character. But the movie also paints a very sombre picture. Norman isn’t a villain anymore; he is a victim, and this is where Psycho II earns its gold stars. It knows that it cannot outdo, or even match up to its predecessor, so it dives down a different path.
This path is altogether fresh and alive, and it is much more enjoyable than its posters would have you believe. The key, of course, to enjoying it is in letting go of the past and absorbing it whole, as a new piece of work. Indeed, even if you haven’t seen Psycho, Psycho II will make sense, and probably scare you half to death. It is as smart as it can be, as frightening as it would like to be, and as satisfying as it hopes to be. Poor old Norman. He can never catch a break. We always wanted him to get caught, but now, we might just want him to be free. Forever.
Best Moment | A specific murder in the basement, involving a wavy light and a stab through the mouth.
Worst Moment | The obvious body double in the shower. Shucks.