“Mary, I’m becoming confused again, aren’t I?”
The Scoop: 1983 R, directed by Richard Franklin and starring Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, and Meg Tilly
Tagline: It’s 22 years later, and Norman Bates is finally coming home
Summary Capsule: What Psycho did for showers, Psycho II does for kiddy wading pools.
Justin’s rating: We all go a little Mutanty sometimes
Justin’s review: When the slasher movie spree of the ’80s took off, even sacred properties such as Alfred Hitchcock weren’t hands-off — so why not Psycho II, if there was money to be had? While the original Psycho wasn’t strictly a “slasher” movie by modern standards, it certainly had a huge influence on the genre, and Normal Bates is right on up there with Jason Vorhees and Freddy Krueger in terms of name recognition. Studios finally enticed Anthony Perkins to reprise his famous role 22 years later, and a small franchise (consisting of three sequels, plus the horrid 1998 remake) was born.
Let’s take a little test, shall we? When a serial killer moves back into the neighborhood, the best course of strategy should be:
- To give the man who poisoned his mother a job handling food
- To move in with him and ask him to start handling knives
- To start poking at him like a bear to see if he’ll roar
- To get as far away as possible
If you chose the last option, you’re head and shoulders above most of the characters here, who seem to be bending over backwards to allow another killing spree to occur. Maybe they were bored with life and this is how people entertained themselves before reality TV and Peggle.
“The more things change, the more they stay the same” is the theme of Psycho II — or is it? Little over two decades after the revelation of Bates’ murderous insanity, he’s been released from the mental hospital and dumped without much thought back at his house and hotel. The tall, thin man seems like a harmless pussycat, but since there’s obviously little reason for us to trust him, he attempts to reenter society under a suspicious eye — from us, from the community, and from the sister of Marion Crane, aka “Shower Girl” from the first film. Wonky things do indeed start to happen — Norman hears voices, receives handwritten notes from “Mother”, and starts hallucinating things that aren’t quite there. Or are they? Ratchet it up with a few murders, and Norman appears to be up to his old tricks.
However, without spoiling too much, Psycho II twists itself into a pretzel to defy expectations and keep us guessing. It would have been a relatively simple matter to turn Bates into an unstoppable Jason-like killer, but Psycho was always more of a psychological horror flick about the madness that lurks in the upper regions of the mind. As a middle-aged Norman Bates, Perkins plays him with childlike fear and a trigger-psychosis. He sometimes comes off as stilted, sometimes sincere and sometimes genuinely creepy. This is a guy that never really fit in with the normal world, and he’s still on some other plane.
There’s perhaps a bit too much story and soap opera moments to keep the tension high, but say this for Psycho II, say that it’s not dull. Sequels are all about cashing in, but the good ones don’t sell out completely. Norman doesn’t spend the entirety of the film in a tutu with wide eyes, slashing anything that moves while singing “She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain”. He’s a quiet, almost anorexic man that you possibly feel sorry for, except that you know he’s still not right in the head, even if the events occurring aren’t his doing.
With “hey, I know that actor!” recognitions in Meg Tilly (not Jennifer Tilly, her sister – I always get them confused) and Dennis Franz, and a moderately interesting plot, Psycho II exceeded my admittedly low expectations. He’s the teddy bear killer we all want to hug!
- Meg Tilly was never allowed to watch any sort of television as a child, and so had never seen the original Psycho (1960) and was unaware of its significance. She didn’t understand why the press was giving all the attention to Anthony Perkins for his comeback role in this movie, and one day on the set Perkins overheard her say, “Why is Tony getting all the attention?” Perkins was upset, didn’t talk to her during filming, and recommended that she be replaced, even though half of her scenes had already been shot.
- In a nice touch the Meg Tilly part here was originally offered to Jamie Lee Curtis, who’d just had some success as the heroine in Halloween. Jamie Lee was, of course, the daughter of Psycho’s original shower victim Janet Leigh.
- Meg Tilly had a body double for her nude scenes.
- Not based on the book of the same name.
- Hooray for horror sequel recaps, the only way we’d possibly be expected to remember what actually happened!
- The Vertigo cam
- An incredibly young Meg Tilly
- “FOC” = Free of Charge. Who says that?
- I don’t think Norman Bates is who you should be going to for relationship advice
- Mary’s reading “In the Belly of the Beast” as she stays at the hotel
- She uses the term “making love” an awful lot
- Shower scene homage
- People really like sandwiches in this movie
- Yay for teenagers breaking into haunted mansions and getting busy in the basement! I’m sure nothing horrible will happen!
- The famous eye hole shot
- There’s a few shots where the camera is looking down from a great height
- Director Richard Franklin is sitting playing a video game in the diner that Norman works in.
- Norman refrains from giving Mary the key to Cabin 1. Cabin 1 was the site of the infamous shower scene in Psycho
- When Mary and Norman first go into Norman’s mother’s room, before they turn the lights on, you can see Alfred Hitchcock’s silhouette on the wall to the far right.
- The town of Fairvale where Lila is tailed by Dr. Raymond was the same town as in Gremlins and Back to the Future. It is located on the Universal Studios (California) back lot
Sheriff: If Norman Bates is crazy, then there are a whole lot of people around here running him a close second.
Norman Bates: Mary, I’m becoming confused again, aren’t I?
Mary: Of course not.
Norman Bates: [holding the knife] Don’t lie to me! Not you!
Mary: Yes, Norman… you are becoming confused again.
Mary: Oh Norman… You’re mad don’t you know that? You’re as mad as a hatter.
Mary: Do you have any idea what it’s like trying to sleep with a couple making love five feet away from you?
Norman Bates: Noisy?
If you liked this movie, try these:
- Psycho III
- Psycho IV: The Beginning