“I don’t kill people anymore”: ‘Psycho II’ Review

Posted in Screening Room by - October 16, 2017
“I don’t kill people anymore”: ‘Psycho II’ Review

It’s hard to follow up a great classic, but it’s even harder to follow up one of the most acclaimed and groundbreaking horror films of all time. Even if it doesn’t have the precision or elegance that Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho has, Psycho II is a competent slasher film that revisits the Norman Bates character in a great manner.

Set two decades after the events of the original film, Psycho II is a story about adjusting to the modern world and trying to purge your sins for good. Norman Bates (the always great Anthony Perkins) has just been released from a mental intuition and is now declared sane. All that changes when he starts work at a new job starts a new friendship with a co-worker and is challenged by the current Bates Motel manager (a sleazy Dennis Franz), and Norman’s past comes back to haunt him along with the possible return of Mother.

Written by Tom Holland (Fright Night) and directed by Richard Franklin (who was a student of Hitchcock’s) Psycho II has a lot going for it. Granted it has the stigma of being the sequel to Psycho, but Franklin’s style is very much modeled after Hitchcock’s idea of suspense. Psycho II is all about Norman, and his state of mind and Perkins is wonderful in it; there are no bird comparisons anymore like in the original, but rather it’s all replaced with a fractured state of mind that has Norman tipping over the edge of sanity every moment something strange happens. One of the things that surprised me the most is that even Franklin’s staging of the murder sequences is emulating a lot of what Hitchcock did in the original – show as little as possible and cutting of the sequence into the true weapon.

One of the best things about the original Psycho is how insanely darkly hilarious that film is and even though II isn’t as darkly funny as the Hitchcock one it still kind of retains a little bit of that film’s humor and I think it comes courtesy of Holland’s script. Finally, even though the Barnard Herrmann score is iconic and truly one of the best scores of all time, especially the theme, Jerry Goldsmith’s score is something that’s also worth pointing out. It has the brassy heavy strings that Herrmann did, but it also incorporates a little of a melancholic tone and, true to the time, a delightful ‘80s synth-heavy tone for some of the more suspenseful moments.

It’s not one of those throwaway sequels and Psycho does stand on its own as a true cinema classic but Psycho II has its merits, and it’s definitely worth watching. It didn’t change cinema like the original did but Franklin’s solid direction and Holland’s script along with Perkins’ performance and beautiful cinematography by the great Dean Cundey are some of the aspect’s that make Psycho II a strong slasher film. Don’t expect anything as great as the Hitchcock masterpiece but if you’re in the mood for a solid slasher film that isn’t gory but relies more on drawn-out suspense, then Psycho II is one that deserves a watch.

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He is an avid movie fan and loves to write about movies perhaps a little too much. He also considers Casino Royale to be the best James Bond film ever made and he's ready to defend at any moment.
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