Psycho II (1983) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

Psycho II (1983) Directed by Richard Franklin. With Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles and Meg Tilly. 

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The 1980’s were a boom-time for sequels. Darth Vader, Rocky Balboa, Slimer,  Jaws-the-shark, Superman and Norman Bates – they all capitalised on an audience thirst for more. Coming 23-years after the original Psycho put shower-curtain companies across the Western Hemisphere out of business for good, Richard Franklin’s elongated sequel is so lost in reverence for the original, that it largely forgets to be its own film.

The story picks-up as Norman Bates (Perkins) is being released from psychiatric care, to return to his reclusive life at the Bates Motel. Once out, he gets a job at a local diner, where he meets Mary (Meg Tilly), a young waitress with ‘boyfriend trouble’ who needs a place to stay. Being the salt-of-the-earth type that he is, our Norman agrees to let Mary stay at the old house. It isn’t long before old memories stir.

After a long gap between films, we aren’t trusted enough to recall the greatness that came before, as that shower scene with Janet Leigh is replayed as a prologue to get us in the mood. Sadly, nothing in Psycho II comes remotely close to capturing that same heart-pounding suspense and shock.

First of all, after so many years, Perkins reprises the role of a haunted man very well. Indeed, Perkins recaptures that certain something – something innately peculiar that immediately puts us on edge. It’s unfortunate then, that the film steadily dissolves into a mostly flat experience, with a plot full of red-herrings and characters doing and saying the plainly ridiculous.

The overall running-time clocks up approximately 4-minutes longer than Hitchcock’s original, but tellingly, it feels more like 34-minutes. It isn’t that it’s a terrible film – more that it lives in the shadow of a masterpiece, while trying desperately at nearly every turn to mimic its predecessor.

For fans of the original, Psycho II is perhaps their own personal Jaws II. You know it’s a million miles from the suspense and terror of the original, but there’s something so uniquely fascinating about the original work, that even a scrappy, mildly entertaining sequel which revisits the same locations and characters is enough to cling on to your attention.

Despite a few good moments, the imposing quality of Hitchcock’s vastly superior original is indelible, to the point that even though Psycho II surfaced 23-years later, it seems happier existing as an Alfred Hitchcock fan-film, than venturing any new ideas of its own. 2.5/5

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About garethrhodes

Full-time lover of all things creative.
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7 Responses to Psycho II (1983) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

  1. Paul S says:

    I’ve never seen this one, but I was wondering, if you were putting together a list of the most unnecessary sequels of all time would Psycho II be in the top ten?

  2. Lloyd Marken says:

    How about that photo though. Beautiful. Very nicely picked Gareth.

  3. ghostof82 says:

    This film had a lovely soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith that helped make it a better movie. Its really not that bad a film at all. Its a bit like comparing Hyams 2010 to Kubricks 2001- comparisons between this and the original Hitchcock classic are inevitable but unfair. The sequels are both very mainstream and try to extend a story that doesn’t need extending. But Psycho 2 never feels like a hatchett job, its at least sincere in its respect for the original.

    • garethrhodes says:

      I agree with you, it isn’t absolutely terrible, just mostly redundant. I thought Perkins did a good job, and there were creepy moments, just far too few of them. Thanks for the thoughtful response.

  4. Chris Evans says:

    I was always curious about this, but extremely cautious because of my love for Hitchcock’s original. I wonder if Psycho III is any better?

    • garethrhodes says:

      Yes, I can see what you mean, although the Hitchcock film is safe and sound as a treasured great, while this bubbles at the bottom of the swamp. I’ve read that Psycho III enters the realm of parody, with Anthony Perkins himself as director. Might be one to skip.

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