psycho | psycho ii | sequel | richard franklin | tom holland | anthony perkins | vera miles | meg tilly | giallo | crime | mystery | thriller | united states | australia | robert loggia | dennis franz | hugh gillin | claudia bryar | robert alan browne | slasher
Film: Psycho II
Director: Richard Franklin
Writer: Tom Holland
Starring: Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles and Meg Tilly
This was a film that I remember watching a bit with my father when I was in high school. I had never seen it and was steadfast that it must be stupid trying to be a sequel to the great Alfred Hitchcock film. It wasn’t until podcasts that I realized these sequels are good according to different hosts. I decided to finally give this a watch during my 31 Days of Halloween for the first time all the way through. I’ve also now given it a second watch for my Traverse through the Threes.
Synopsis: after 22 years of psychiatric care, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), attempts to return to a life of solitude, but the specters of his crimes, and his mother, continue to haunt him.
We start this off seeing the iconic shower sequence where Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) is murdered. It then goes outside, showing us the infamous house and going to color. I loved this transition and opening as it stages the stage. Norman is in the courtroom with his lawyer and his doctor, Bill Raymond (Robert Loggia). They’re going to release him when Lila Loomis (Vera Miles) speaks out. She has a petition and is quite upset, but there’s nothing that she can do.
Norman is taken back to his home and the motel that goes along with it. Going into the house, the old memories flood back to the point where he can’t go into his mother’s room. He also finds a note underneath the phone on the second-floor landing. It is from his mother. He tries to shake it off as Dr. Raymond takes him to the diner that he will work at.
He is greeted by Mrs. Emma Spool (Claudia Bryar). She pushed for him to get the job as it is the Christian thing to do according to her. He’s taken to meet the cook and manager, Ralph Statler (Robert Alan Browne) as well as a young waitress Mary (Meg Tilly). She is fighting with her boyfriend over the phone and after only a few days into working here, she isn’t cutting it.
Norman hears her on the outside payphone when he starts his walk home. He hangs back to check on her. She is short with him and despite that, he offers her to stay in an empty motel room. She at first declines but does relent. Norman isn’t happy when he meets Warren Toomey (Dennis Franz) and the state of his motel. He fires him on the spot and has Mary stay in the main house instead. She does tell him that she will try to stay with a girlfriend.
That doesn’t necessarily happen though. It wasn’t what she expected and he is happy she is staying with him. She tries to help him get over the memories in the house, but it doesn’t help when you have Toomey who isn’t happy with him and Norman gets phone calls from his ‘mother’ as well as notes from her. There is more going on here and Norman might not be reverting like his naysayers think. He can only take so much though.
That is where I’ll leave my recap and introduction to the characters. Where I’ll start is that I’m glad to say that I was wrong about this sequel and am mad that I haven’t seen this earlier. How they build on the story from the original to this is a big part of it. Things get introduced here that don’t violate continuity, which is a big thing for me, but going even farther, it deepens the story if I’m honest.
The first thing is that this film came out 23 years after the original and I like that they just have this pick up in present time. He has been in a mental hospital the whole time and it is interesting that they slyly slip in the line about funding being cut. This is part of the reason that he is being released. He does look like he’s trying to get life back to normal. This subplot works to get us started.
Dr. Raymond points out the fact that living in this house is going to bring up all the old memories. I can see a double edge sword here. He doesn’t have anywhere else he can go. He has no money and the only thing he could do is sell the estate. He wants to overcome the trauma and see if that will help him move forward. We see that is a bad idea, but it also isn’t his fault. There are other forces at play here, which I ended up liking that angle. It is sad though if I’m going to be honest. It made me wonder if these weren’t here, would Norman snap or just live out the rest of his days.
The final thing to cover of the story before moving on, this film doesn’t play like a traditional slasher. If anything, I would say this is more like an American giallo. We assume that Norman is doing the murders, but it falls into that trope that maybe he’s not because one moment he’s locked in the attic when something happens. I like how this plays out as he slips back into madness, but is he really? The other thing, there is good writing throughout this with callbacks to the original in scenes, situations and even names as well. That impressed me both watches.
That will take me to the pacing of the movie, which I think is good as well. Even though this runs for almost 2 hours, I was hooked from the beginning. I made the bad mistake of starting this at night and I had to go to bed with about 30 minutes left. This happened both times. I probably could have powered through, but I had work in the morning. I only brought this up because I had to debate myself with what to do. It hooked that badly to figure out what happens here. None of the reveals hurt this and I even like how things ending. It doesn’t cheat anything and to be honest, I love the final sequence as well. It is the preverbal ‘nails in the coffin’.
As for the acting, it was good as well. Perkins owns this role. He seems like a guy who is quite nervous and a bit out of touch with what seems normal. He clings to Mary, but I don’t necessarily think that is sexual. It really seems to be more about being lonely and just needing that human interaction. I liked the fact that they got Miles back as Lila, as it was a good touch. Her character is quite villainous, which I wasn’t expecting. It works in the framework though. Tilly was good as well, plus we saw her topless for a second which I’m not mad about. Loggia and Franz were both solid, along with the rest of the cast to round this film out.
All that is left then is filmmaking. The effects were good as well. As this came out in the 80’s, they could do more than what they could in the original. They were done practically and some of them made me cringe if I’m honest. There was one in the basement especially. They looked that good. They went brutal with things that happen here, even though there aren’t a lot of murders. I will also say that I really like how this film was shot. The cinematography was well done. It feels like they did with the original with overhead shots and things like this. It works as it feels like it is paying homage without going over the top.
In conclusion, I ended up liking this film. Despite my preconceived notions against this one, it is quite amazing if I’m honest. I like how it has almost a giallo film where the conventional knowledge is that Norman is the killer, but we also get things that happen that make you question yourself. It has a story that doesn’t violate any continuity and builds on the story. The pacing helps to build this mystery and warrants the longer running time to figure out what is happening here. The acting is good across the board. Perkins just owns this role and it is impressive to see how easily he slipped back into it. This is well-made. The cinematography, effects and soundtrack are all solid. I could feel my anxiety going up and it set out to do what it needed. I think this film is great and glad I finally checked this one off the list. I’d recommend it to fans of the original or slasher films for sure.
My Rating: 8.5 out of 10