Richard Franklin/ USA/ 1983/ 113 mins
Available on Blu-ray now.
Often the biggest hurdle that a sequel to a classic film has is justifying its own existence. Too often disappointing sequels are dished out just to make money from a brand name or because Hollywood is starved for original ideas. There are of course exceptions, The Godfather Part II, Evil Dead II, Aliens and Terminator 2: Judgement Day are all arguably better films than their originals.
The chance of a sequel being better than the first after a large gap is even more rare, T2 Trainspotting is a recent example of a late in the day sequel that didn’t quite manage to recapture the magic of the original. With that in mind, Psycho II, a sequel coming 23 years after the undisputed classic Psycho has a lot going against it. Amazingly, while not besting the original, it makes a pretty good stab at it.
The plot sees Norman Bates released from a psychiatric hospital, seemingly cured and ready to take over the running of the Bates Motel again. Unfortunately, someone with sinister intentions is determined to break his sanity and it’s not long before the ghosts of his past and the memory of his monstrous mother pushes Norman over the edge.
While Hitchcock was hampered with strict censorship (it was the first American film to feature a toilet which was risky at the time) meaning that the violence and sexuality was muted and carefully edited, Psycho II has no such restrictions and gets to let loose with gore, violence and nudity. This gives the film a grittier, scuzzier edge which is best exemplified in the Dennis Franz character Toomey, who is one of the sleaziest characters in cinema history.
Thankfully Anthony Perkins adds a touch of class to proceedings with his portrayal of an older and emotionally frazzled Norman Bates. His performance grounds the film and elevates it above the rather weak plot and lack of real surprises. The biggest twist in the film comes right at the end and feels tacked on and unearned.
The film opens with a repeat of the classic shower scene which reminds the audience how cutting edge Psycho was and unfortunately shows up Psycho II for the hollow imitation that it is. Ultimately it’s a decent 80’s slasher film but as a sequel to one of the greatest horror films of all time, it doesn’t quite make the cut.