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