Now, I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” a couple days ago. One of the (if not THE) best classic horror film ever made. I’ve seen it so many times, I could quote it. I was going to re-watch it tonight. But thought I would do something different. Instead of watching the obvious choice, I went with Psycho II.
Not everyone knows that Anthony Perkins starred in three Psycho sequels, reprising his classic role as Norman Bates. I found out about them years ago, but I always avoided them because, I mean come on. A sequel to Psycho sounds like a bad idea. Much less three. Not to mention the third sequel is called Psycho IV: The Beginning. Yikes!
But about a year ago, I took a deep breathe and watched all four movies together. Right from the beginning, I was surprised. Psycho II begins with the [in]famous shower scene, in black and white. After that part is over, it continues the old footage of where the camera goes the bedside table with the newspaper and it says, “Universal Studios presents” and all of that. Then shows the old house with Norman screaming, “Mother! Blood! BLOOD!!”. Then the words “PSYCHO II” appear, and the rest of the opening credits play as the camera stays in that shot of the house as the sun comes up, in full colour. That, to me, is a perfect way to begin the first sequel to Psycho. It pays tribute to the original, as well as allows you to make the transition from black and white to colour.
I won’t go into the plot to much, because this is one of those films where I think the less you know going in, the better. I will say that after the opening credits, you see Norman Bates being released at a hearing, with Lila Crane, now Lila Loomis, as she clearly married Sam Loomis, protests his release. Lila is once again played by Vera Miles.
The only other thing I will say about the plot is that in the original film, there is a line when Marion first arrives at the Bates Motel where Norman tells her that there is a diner just up the road. Well, that diner is an important part of this film, and I love how they included it. They didn’t even make that connection a big deal. They easily could have had Norman saying something like, “I once told a girl who stopped by the motel that this diner was there”. But instead, it was like a silent nod towards the fans.
Psycho II is genuinely a great film. You don’t even have to pretend it’s not a sequel to such a classic, because it compliments the original film nicely. They didn’t make the sequel just to make the sequel. There was a reason for it, the story was furthered, and it even adds depth to the original film, because you go back and watch it and you remember some of the things you learned in the next film, like off-camera rooms in the Bates’ house, more details in the fruit cellar, and as I mentioned, the diner Norman mentions in that throwaway line.
Psycho III is also a great film, but it didn’t feel like they tried nearly as hard with that one. Where Psycho II was a direct sequel to the original, they just tried to find a way to have a new Norman Bates story. They try hard to link the original to it by having a character that reminds Norman of Marion Crane. There is a bunch of references to the original film, such as Norman saying “We all go a little mad sometimes”, and even re-does the shower scene, only with a twist this time. While it’s definitely my least favourite of the Psycho series, it’s still an interesting film, and I still like it just because it’s part of the series.
Psycho IV: The Beginning technically has a misleading title. Although it does go back and tell the story of Norman as a child, the story is told in flashbacks as Norman tells his life story to a radio station, Joe Dirt-style (only over the phone, not in studio). The ending to that film was a nice, concluding end. However, I am sure that had Anthony Perkins made further movies in the series, they would have been just as good.
Sadly, we will never know if he had another good Norman Bates story. On 12 September 1992, just two years after making Psycho IV, Anthony Perkins (A. K. A. Norman Bates) passed away. If he were still alive today, I may be talking about Psycho XI: Space Motel. And you know what? I’m sure it would have been good.