“I don’t kill people anymore.”
“It’s 22 years later and Norman Bates is coming home.”
Director: Richard Franklin / Writer: Tom Holland / Cast: Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, Meg Tilly, Robert Loggia, Dennis Franz, Hugh Gillin, Claudia Bryar, Robert Alan Browne.
Body Count: 6
Laughter Lines: “I don’t kill people anymore.”
An Australian girl who I used to work with, Tammy, told me a few years back that her father’s girlfriend is the widow of Richard Franklin, and has the knife-in-the-mouth prop from the movie. Envy.
Franklin, who was chosen to direct after his rather awesome Road Games (with Jamie Lee Curtis), and the story picks up 22 years after, as Norman Bates is granted release from his institution, much to the chagrin of Lila Loomis, the kind-of final girl from Psycho, whose sister, Marion Crane, was the infamous shower victim.
It’s a bit of an unlikely contrivance that he’s sent back to the very place where he committed the crimes, but, hey, it’s an 80s horror flick. Provided a job at a Fairvale diner, Norman meets young waitress Mary Samuels, who just happens to need a place to stay after her boyfriend trades up. Norman initially offers her a room in the motel but, upon learning the new manager has turned it into a by-the-hour party joint, so insists she lodge in the house.
Before long, weird things start to happen: Creepy phone calls from ‘mother’, a toilet that overflows with blood, spyholes in the bathroom wall – and also some disappearances. First to go is the sleazy manager, then a couple of horny teens stop by to make-out in the basement and find themselves set upon by a woman in a long black dress wielding a scary-ass kitchen knife…
Psycho II is something of an unlikely horror sequel, which, in later years would’ve been shot the year after the original and called for a re-cast, so Perkins returning to the role is a major plus – indeed the film was planned to be a TV-film until he agreed to star. Franklin, a protegé of Hitchcock, liberally peppers the film with visual homages to the original. High angles, aerial shots, and step-zooms echo the style nicely – that awesome crane shot from the attic window down to the basement is everything.
Several revelations uncapped at various points throughout the movie thicken up a slightly convenient plot, but also push it beyond the confines of the average sequel: is Norman blacking out and dressing up as mom again? Is someone else on the scene? The decision to implement more standard slasher clichés of the era was a wise one and results in some inventively grisly murder scenes, the knife-in-the-mouth being the standout, at the same time retaining the classiness of a high-end movie.
The story segues neatly into Psycho III (released in ’86 but set just a month or two later). This should be textbook material when it comes to creating quality follow-ups.