Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Summer Shocks 1983: Psycho II

Had the internet existed when Psycho II went into production, I'm sure there would've been no end to the online ire directed towards this project. To be fair, a sequel to Psycho looked like nothing but a bad idea, even with Anthony Perkins returning as Norman Bates. It was the success of the slasher genre that spurred Universal to bring the granddaddy of slashers back to the screen so a low grade slasher film is what most expected Psycho II to be.

While some thought the explicit violence of Psycho II did put the sequel in that lesser category, most fans applauded Tom Holland's clever script and Richard Franklin's sure-handed direction. In the summer of '83, Psycho II was by far my most anticipated movie. Appropriately for a Psycho film, my mother let me skip my junior high graduation to take me to see it and I was enthralled from start to finish.

Thanks to the incredible surprise win by Holland and Franklin, Norman Bates wasn't just a part of horror history anymore, he was slashing shoulder to shoulder in the '80s with Jason, Freddy, and Michael Myers. Some might not see that as anything to celebrate but not only was Psycho II a superior sequel but the Anthony Perkins-directed Psycho III (1986) was as well. In some ways, I prefer Psycho III as it's a funkier, seedier entry in the series. It has a more lived-in aura of madness, a more macabre sensibility, and a richer sense of tragedy. It goes places that a direct sequel to Psycho couldn't have. But it never would've existed had Psycho II not accomplished the impossible and made Norman a horror superstar to a new generation of fans.

For my full Summer Shocks review of Psycho II, click here.

10 comments:

Wings said...

I like it, too. And putting Norman in the same league as Michael and Jason aside, I think the very idea of just seeing where the character of Norman Bates, and some of the other people and the town even, were 20+ years later was enough to draw me in. Was like we were opening the book again on some interesting and flawed people. Love it.

And yeah, I agree with you on part III being seedy and dark. Fits and just works.

Part IV got a little weird, with the actual playing out of the childhood of Norman, but I think even it has its merits.

Jeff Allard said...

Yeah, I just set Psycho IV to record later this week on one of the movie channels. I saw it once on VHS ages ago and remember it being an interesting movie. Looking forward to watching it again!

Jay Amabile said...

I've got this on DVD, I need to watch it again, it's been a while. I had no idea that it had such a good following.

FilmFather said...

If you want a fun treat, try and track down Robert Bloch's novel of Psycho II, which came out a year before the film. It's gorier and more depraved, with a twist ending that rivals the movie.

Jeff Allard said...

Jay, the movie really holds up. Definitely worth revisiting!

FF, I read Bloch's novel around the time it came out (I forget whether I read it before or after the movie) and didn't care much for it. I remember the ending being a surprise but I didn't care for the portrayal of Norman and the overall plot just didn't grab me. I'd like to re-read it, though, just to see how I'd like it today.

C.L. Hadden said...

I'm a huge fan of Psycho 2 - it's like comfort food to me. I saw it (granted under-aged) at the drive-in way back in the day. I like the script, the acting, and most especially Jerry Goldsmith's score!
Glad to know others like it as well!

On a side note, I've also read the book and wasn't crazy about it - probably due to my abnormal crush on Norman:)

Jeff Allard said...

I don't know how abnormal it is to have a crush on Norman - all the girls seem to love him! He really is like a tragic romantic hero - especially in the sequels.

FilmFather said...

Eh, you guys might be right about the Psycho II novel not being that great. Maybe it was just my then junior high-school self, who was starting to discover horror flicks and gore, and was happy to get his hands on whatever he could to feed that discovery.

Come to think of it, if they had filmed Psycho II the way Bloch wrote it, his ending probably would have made viewers furious.

Jeff Allard said...

It definitely would've. And it would've ended Psycho as a franchise right then and there. I'd still like to reread the book one of these days, though.

rhuneke said...

PSYCHO 2 RULES. He's so fidgety and twitchy and you really feel sorry for him. In the theaters it really kept me guessing!! I never even considered old Spooly, and you woulda thought you should have seeing as though he goes for the older gals. Dude was obsessed with toasted cheese sandwiches too. Mother musta really made them umm umm GOOD. Of course the coupe de grace is when he asks Mommo if she wants a sandwich and then slides one of the back of her skull with the SHOVEL! Classic. And where is he gonna get another one of those kitchen chairs, ...he broke up the set. I guess he felt right at home going back to being Psycho since he didn't have much of a social life. Good thing he always keeps a spare MOTHER hanging around..."Open the Motel, boy! Whaddaya spect us to live on HOPE?" Normy RULES. Give this flick and A. The others kinda sucked. He tried to recapture the shovel magic in 3 by cracking Jeff Fahey in the head with it, Norman plays the bad ass guitar! But sorry,...I love the SHA-CLANG of the shovel sound a heck of a lot more! Ooops...time for another cheese sandwich...gotta go!