I’m a big Psycho fan. I might even go as far as saying “I am psycho for Psycho“. So I couldn’t stand the thought of Norman Bates being reduced to anything less in a cash-grabbing sequel. Of course as time goes, curiosity grows. So about a year ago I sat down and watched Psycho II starring; Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, Robert Loggia, and Meg Tilly. My thoughts? Not that good but not nearly as bad as I expected. Anthony Perkins is still mesmerizing in the role of Norman Bates and the story has some intriguing twists and turns. Unfortunately, the execution has nowhere near the same suspenseful flair that the original had.
Psycho II picks up 22 years after the events of the first film. Norman has been released from a mental institution under the suggestion of his Doctor (Robert Loggia) and has been given a job at a diner near the Bates Motel. Lila Loomis (Vera Miles) comes to Norman’s hearing to protest his release but is turned away and Norman moves back into the Bates Motel. Back at the motel Norman finds it is now run by a sleazy manager named Warren Toomey (Dennis Franz), but fights his urges to kill and continues his new life. He meets a handful of colorful characters at his new job including the kind and elderly Mrs. Emma Spool (Claudia Bryar) and a young waitress named Mary (Meg Tilly) whom Norman grows close to. Of course Norman continues to battle his inner demons and people start dying. But is this because of Norman? Or is this there another murderer?
When it comes to the climax of the film, Psycho II takes some liberties with the series that I’m not a fan of. The big twist at the end being that Mrs. Spool (the old lady at the diner) is actually Norman’s mother. She explains that Mrs. Bates was her sister that raised Norman because she herself (that’s Mrs. Spool) was institutionalized. Once Norman was released she made sure that he would have a job, a home, and that no one would ever hurt him again. So she started murdering everyone who was making Norman’s new life difficult. But Norman doesn’t take kindly to the news and kills Mrs. Spool, once again becoming a “Psycho” and setting the series up for another sequel.
I respect that writer Tom Holland (who would later go on to write/direct the great film Fright Night) wanted to tell a small, character-driven story, but I’m not a fan of his big twist. Especially when you consider the fact that author Robert Bloch actually wrote a sequel to Psycho in 1982. That story was about Norman Bates discovering there was a movie being made about him, so he goes on a killing spree on his way to Hollywood. It’s hard to say if that would have been any better, but I think it would have been a far more interesting jumping off point. Still, I feel a lot of love from the makers of Psycho II. In fact, director Richard Franklin had contacted Hitchcock years before while he was attending USC and actually became friends with the esteemed filmmaker. I’m sure he wanted to respect the original, there was just nowhere for the story to go. I’m not sure if anyone could have made a sequel to Psycho that could have felt justified. It’s a classic film that already explored the full potential of the character. Yet they still made two more and a remake. Sometimes I wonder who the real psychos are.