Psycho II

June 14th, 2008 by Perfesser Deviant

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Director: Richard Franklin
Writer: Tom Holland
Release Year: 1983

Coming home is hard to do.

More than twenty years after the events of the first film, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) is released from the asylum and returns to the Bates Motel. Lila Loomis (Vera Miles)—who apparently married her sister’s boyfriend Sam—objects to his release in the strongest possible terms, but Dr. Bill Raymond (Robert Loggia) assures her that Bates is restored to sanity. Others, including Norman himself, are not so sure….

(Spoilers follow…)

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The film starts with the shower scene from the original Psycho (1960). Amateur writers love to start a piece with a quote from a notable source to make themselves look better, but it reeks of desperation. It also is the best scene in the entire film. Not a particularly auspicious start. This problem runs throughout the whole film as the film makers did their level best to ensure that they were not simply aping Hitchcock (as others like Psycho II   motel thriller reviews reviews horror Brian De Palma are so fond of doing) but were presenting an original vision. They failed. The film is clearly derivative, but instead of doing something interesting with Hitchcock’s work, the film makers squander the opportunity by trying to appeal to 80s sensibilities rather than work on quality.

Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) gets a job at a diner run by Ralph (Robert Alan Browne) at the behest of old waitress Emma Spool (Claudia Bryar) where he meets the fetching Mary (Meg Tilly) who has just broken up with her boyfriend. Norman takes her in as he feels he could use the company. He also fires, Warren Toomey (Dennis Franz), the jerk that was hired to manage the motel in his absence. Very soon thereafter he begins getting notes from his dead mother warning him to get rid of Mary. He starts hearing mother and she is saying creepy things. When Toomey vanishes, no one cares, but when some pothead kid vanishes it catches the attention of Sheriff John Hunt (Hugh Gillin) and he does some minor investigating.

Of course the real culprit is mean old Lila Loomis (Vera Miles) who wants to get back at Norman for killing her sister. First she tries to get the court to keep Norman inside the asylum, then she tries to convince Psycho II   hellomother thriller reviews reviews horror Normans doctor, Bill Raymond (Robert Loggia), that Norman is still a threat. When this fails, she and her daughter (Mary is her daughter), plan to drive Norman insane again by making him think that his mother is still alive. Lila is so twisted with rage over the murder of her sister that she will stop at nothing to get revenge. This behavior defies any kind of common sense as Lila was strange enough to marry her dead sisters boyfriend (pretty weird that) and then spend the rest of her life trying to cause harm to Norman. It simply makes no sense.  The nature of the character of Mary Loomis is also puzzling. She, like Norman, was a child who was completely dominated by her crazed mother growing up and continues to do her bidding as an adult. Mary, also like Norman, was a relative innocent who did morally reprehensible things because of her mothers demands. That naiveté is what brings her fall in love with Norman, a man who is something of a match for her. Norman is certainly more attractive than a mother who will put her daughter at great risk for revenge. Especially a mother obsessive enough to have Mary use the alias “Mary Samuels” which is close to the name that Marion Crane used when she stayed in the motel, not the best idea.

Psycho II   pseudomother thriller reviews reviews horror Norman starts the film as nervous but cured. He has probably been reformed by the time spent in the asylum with Doctor Raymond and he no longer believes that his mother is still alive. Norman loses his grip on sanity as the story progresses and begins to believe that the calls that keep coming to the house are coming from his mother. Despite Doctor Raymond’s best efforts to help Norman keep himself together—even going so far as having Mrs. Bates body exhumed—Norman begins to succumb to the voice in his head. Especially when the voice starts identifying herself as his real mother.

This is where the film gets stupid. We have the murder of Toomey and then the kid in the cellar, which seems like Lila might be doing the killing to get Bates sent back to the asylum, but then someone snuffs her (the latex head stabbed is ridiculously fake looking) which means she is not doing the killings. Because Norman is otherwise engaged when the killings occur, that leaves Mary as the only likely suspect, but she seems too scared by the whole situation to have done it herself. The final revelation—that Emma Spool is Normans real mother—is laughable and follows the terrible tradition of having the killer be someone who barely appears in the film. The denouement has Emma Spool visiting Norman to tell him that she is his mother, so naturally he kills her and everything goes back to the way it was in 1960.

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Technically speaking, the film has problems. In addition to the ridiculous latex head stabbing, there is another bad effect when Mary repeatedly stabs Norman in the hands, which are clearly rubber. Neither effect would convince a seven year old as the skin tone is not even close (hell, I am colorblind and I noticed). The amazing score by Bernard Herrmann is replaced by one of Jerry Goldsmith‘s generic and intrusive 80s scores (it reminds me strongly of Poltergeist (1982)), which hurts the film substantially. The problem with this film is that it is so far removed from the original and is clearly a product of the 80s slasher genre rather than a good continuation of the story. What is odd is that Robert Bloch wrote a sequel to the original in which Norman escapes and goes to Hollywood to where a studio is making a film based on his life. Something like that would have been a superior film rather than an overlong exercise in 80s silliness.

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