31 Days of Horror(1)


The Original

What’s there to say that hasn’t been said.  Directed by Alfred Hitchcock and adapted from a pretty okay novella by Robert Bloch, Psycho is a sharp and effective film that casts such a large shadow over horror that its influence is still felt to this day.  It’s a movie that proves you can have style over substance when the style is amazingly well-crafted.  There are issues, the movie’s biggest failure is that scene at the end where the psychiatrist tries to describe Norman Bates’ psychological disorder but then it cuts to Anthony Perkins’ face as “Mrs. Bates” recites that “she wouldn’t hurt a fly” speech and all is forgiven.  A great movie.

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The Sequel

Norman Bates is cured.  Or at least Robert Loggia seems to think so.  Norman Returns to his home behind the Bates Motel and immediately people begin dying.  Norman begins recieving notes and phone calls from “Mother” and mysterious figure dressed like the late Mrs. Bates is definitely responsible for the deaths.  Is Norman going crazy again or is it someone else?

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Does It Hold Up?

I’m not even gonna dignify that with an answer.  Let’s look at this from another angle.  Does Psycho 2 justify its existence?  I think so.  If you’re going to tell the continuing story of Norman Bates, now in the 1980s you need to have a better angle than “Norman comes back and just goes crazy again.”  A lot of what worked about Psycho is that it did the unexpected.  We never thought that sweet and timid Norman was going to hurt Janet Leigh, she was the leading lady so she’d make it out of the motel alive.  And then we felt for Norman as he covered up his “mother’s crimes”, “it’s not his fault” we thought until we realized that it was.

Psycho 2 riffs on Psycho’s reversal.  Now we know that Norman’s the killer, we know he’s going to start killing again now that he’s out in the world again and the movie hits us with the first big punch.  Lila Loomis (Vera Miles, reprising her role from the first film) is out to force Norman to relapse using a Mrs. Bates costume and her niece Mary (Meg Tilly) to probe his mind for weaknesses.

There are a million ways this could’ve been a gory ’80s cheesefest (See: Psyco 3) but director Richard Franklin and writer Tom Holland realize the gravity of what they’re doing.   Rather than try to recapture the magic they told a very different story, it’s apparent that the movie doesn’t even want us to believe that Norman’s responsible for what’s going on but it plays along gamely, allowing us to question our own perceptions along with Norman.

Psycho 2 doesn’t live up to Psycho, very few movies even could, but it takes the impossible task of sequelizing Psycho by telling a taut and effective story with a dynamite ending.  In its own way that’s living up to Psycho.

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Watch, Toss, Or Buy?


Where Can I Find It?

Scream! Factory has a Blu-ray edition.