Random Film of the Week: Psycho II

psycho_ii_xlgWell, it’s Mother’s Day this week as well as my birthday (tomorrow, so you still have time to get me that gift or else!), so I’m going to have fun with this week’s pick. While seen as sacrilege to some fans of the original movie, for my money Psycho II is a nice surprise that does well at following up on Norman Bates’ life post-release from the institution he ended up in thanks to his deeds in the original.

Screenwriter Tom Holland and director Richard Franklin get some great (albeit limited) mileage out of Anthony Perkins here as he portrays Norman as trying to live the “normal” life, but ends up instead plagued by forced memories from the past intended to drive him back to his old ways. Or perhaps he’s hallucinating all that bad stuff? Whatever the cause, bodies start piling up (well, the actual death count is small compared to other films of the era), the mystery deepens and it’s not until the final reel that things become clear with a double twist corker of an ending that’s still amazing…

The film works as an effective horror flick thanks to the murders, but it’s also a VERY bleak black comedy that pays homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s original film in a few ways. A few of those elements are intentionally a wee bit too close to the first film, but they’re there to get those who remember the first film smiling and nodding. Other elements, such as reusing the famous shower scene to open the film, a glorious matte shot that’s actually a riff on one from North by Northwest and not Psycho and a “watch closely or you’ll miss it!” Hitchcock “cameo” are all done excellently and make the movie more fun to watch. Granted, there’s more blood spilled here than in the original and the fate of one character might seem too cruel to some. But I’d gather this one had to appeal to modern tastes for genre flicks getting a bit more realistically stabby, so there you go.

In addition to Anthony Perkins and Vera Miles reprising their roles from the first Psycho, you get the lovely Meg Tilly as some eye candy who’s quite integral to the plot. No spoilers here other than to say she’s not really acting up a storm here, but is easy on the eyes and an intriguing addition to the series to a point. The film seems to rankle some purists thanks to explaining the reasons for Norman’s madness a lot differently than in the first film, but I rather liked this twist because it sets up that ending (and the inevitable sequel) most wonderfully indeed. Everything’s wrapped up in a great Jerry Goldsmith score that’s a bit more electronic than it needs to be, but it’s actually a great thing that he didn’t just do a complete swipe or reworking of Bernard Herrmann’s classic score for the original film.

I actually saw this upon its release with a bunch of friends on the day it opened and can recall the audience really getting into the film to the point that the entire house cracked up at the memorable final sequence. I won’t spoil it here other than to say if you haven’t seen this movie before, you probably won’t see what’s coming and you absolutely should NOT look up this movie anywhere online beforehand. Let that closer hit you and take it all in for what it’s worth, I say. I’ll get to the crazed cornucopia of carnage that’s Psycho III in a future column, as take it or leave it, that one’s special in a few more ways worth exploring in detail. Anyway, watch this one with your own mom and maybe she’ll finally understand you. Or just think you’re really weird (which may be the same thing in some cases)…

-GW

2 thoughts on “Random Film of the Week: Psycho II

    • Well, I intend on having a QUIET birthday. Some work will get done on the site and I may have a glass of wine later in the evening and pass out watching a movie (not this one, though!). Whee. I’m not a big party person these days. I think if you DID give this to your mom, she’d reveal her real favorite, (Stop, Or My Mom Will Shoot! comes to mind)…

      Like

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