Psycho Week Day #2 Psycho II (1983)

By | May 09, 2016 Leave a Comment

How does one make a sequel to one of the greatest horror movies of all time? That is a hard question. Actually, the question is very clear now, but place yourself back in the late 70's/early 80's. Sequels were not nearly as common as they are now. There were the Airport movies, but that was less "sequel bait" and more trying to cash in on the disaster movie craze that was happening in the 70's. But outside of that and the sequel to Jaws, there were not that many sequels.

So let's move past that. Let's focus on making a sequel to Psycho. Psycho was a landmark film. The film gave us what is arguably the first slasher film. It laid the groundwork for years to come. But what a lot of people don't realize is that Psycho ushered us into a new era where horror movies could take more risks. After Psycho we started seeing horror films that contained graphic violence and nudity. Films like Blood Feast and Two Thousand Maniacs gave us the first splatter films and those were followed by Night of the Living Dead, which gave us graphic scenes of zombies eating people. 

Now the idea of making a sequel to Psycho had to be seen as ludicrous. Psycho doesn't need a sequel. It is the type of film that can stand on its own. Why make a sequel? Universal, who owns the rights to Psycho, were asking themselves this very question. How would we make a sequel? That was there second question. They thought that no one would go to the theater to see a Psycho sequel, so they were going to make the film a TV movie. Then Anthony Perkins, who played Norman Bates, got wind of the idea and wanted in, He loved the character and wanted to see where he could take him this time around. The studio hired Tom Holland, who would go on to write Fright Night and Child's Play, to write the script and Richard Franklin, who was getting a lot of press because of a movie he did called Road Games, to direct. The film was bumped up from a TV movie to a theatrical film. Everything was set to make what could be a worthy sequel or a terrible, by-the-numbers slasher film that doesn't deserve to have the name Psycho attached to it. Luckily they made a good movie.

Psycho II starts with the release of Norman Bates from the mental institution that he has been living at since the end of the first film. Marion Crane's sister, Lila Loomis, does not want Norman to be released, saying that it is only a matter of time before he kills again. She is right as people start disappearing almost as soon as Norman sets foot in his house. Norman's doctor has set up a job for Norman at a diner that isn't too far from his house. There Norman meets Mary, a young woman who is need of help. Norman offers her a room in his house and she accepts.

Here is where I am going to stop talking about the plot. It is best to see this without having any knowledge of what is to come next. The film does not have a huge twist like its predecessor, but there are things that happen here that are best left for the viewer to see, not to read in a review.

I will tell you this though. Psycho II is a good movie. It isn't great, but it doesn't tarnish the Psycho name. Tom Holland has written a script that has a sharp wit to it and keeps whether Norman has been rehabilitated a question throughout the film. We wonder Norman's motives all the time and that keeps us on the edge of our seats. Richard Franklin keeps the film moving. It does have a breakneck speed to it, but it isn't s slow slog of a film either. The film does run a bit long though. I wish that the film makers had gone through the film and tightened it up a bit. This is really the only thing that I could fault the film for. 

The film doesn't become a normal slasher movie that relies on gore to keep the audience's attention. I was afraid that the film would give us as much gore as the MPAA would allow, but the film is smarter than that. It relies on building characters and relationship before going in for a kill. This is what really sold me that the film wasn't a cheap cash in. 

The performances are pretty good too. Anthony Perkins IS Norman Bates. No one else could have played him. Perkins, again, gives Norman a lot of humanity, We want Norman to be better and we react much the same way that Norman does when he is accused of the killings. We know that he is capable of doing them, but we hope that he isn't the killer this time around. The other actors do a fine job, but it is Norman we came to see and Perkins gives us his all.

In the end, Psycho II is one of the better sequels to come around. It doesn't resort to cheap tricks or jump scares to keep our attention. It give us characters we like, suspense, and a sharp wit. Those are what makes the film a success.   
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