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Customer Review

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars after twenty two years, Norman Bates returns to the house on the hill...., May 3, 2011
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This review is from: Psycho II (DVD)
The master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, arguably started the slasher genre with Psycho (1960), a groundbreaking masterpiece that is still chillingly effective today. When the film concluded with Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) under arrest for the murder of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) at the Bates Motel, few imagined that there would ever be a continuation to story.

At a time when sequels where not common, the decision to continue the Norman Bates saga was perhaps even more remarkable. Directed by Richard Franklin (Road Games, F/X2), Psycho II (1983) doesn't deliver the same kind of shocks as the original, but it comes pretty close, and is an interesting and suspenseful film, where in an unlikely turnabout, killer Norman Bates, becomes a sympathetic figure.

After being in an institution for 22 years, Norman Bates is released, over the objections of Marion Crane's sister Lila Loomis (Vera Miles). Under the care of Dr. Raymond (Robert Logia), Norman returns to the Bates Motel (which after two decades, he somehow still owns). The motel is being managed by a man named Toomey (Dennis Franz). Bates takes a job as a kitchen helper, at a local diner owned by Emma Spool (Claudia Bryar). There he befriends Mary Samuels (Meg Tilly), a waitress who needs a place to stay. Norman returns to the motel with Mary, and after getting into an argument, fires Toomey.

Before long, Mary has moved into Norman's house. With Toomey gone, Bates quits his job at the diner, and returns to running the motel. Norman's speedy reentry to society hits a few bumps, as he receives mysterious phone calls, and written messages that seem to be from his mother. While home, Norman is drawn to the attic, and finds himself locked in. While he is trapped there, a teenage couple sneaks into the basement, and a boy is knifed and killed, by a figure in a dress. The girl escapes, bringing Sheriff Hunt (Hugh Gillin) to the scene to investigate. Mary alibis Norman, but the cloud of suspicion has returned.

In getting to this point, the story moves along quickly, posing many questions, but providing few answers. Is someone trying to push Norman into insanity? After claiming to have strange phone conversations with his mother, then later with someone who claims to be his "real mother", it seems that Norman is "becoming confused" again. Mary isn't what she seems to be, but genuinely affected by Norman, she questions the things she had intended to do. At one point, she comforts the troubled Bates, like a mother with a child.

It is only at the end, after a number of wicked twists, and shocking and unexpected kills, does the picture start to clear. It may even take a second viewing, for the events to become more understandable. Although some matters are revealed, what was happening in the mind of Norman Bates, remains a mystery.

The strength of Psycho II is the psychological turmoil and state of confusion that is created and built up, before the whirlwind finish accented with several unexpected deaths. The connection between Mary and Norman is very special, and holds your interest as it evolves throughout the film. Anthony Perkins has playing Norman Bates nailed, and Meg Tilly is also excellent. A psychology student, Mary is intelligent, and seems familiar with dealing with disturbed minds. She's caring, confident, and in control, until she thinks Norman has gone over the edge. Vera Miles is always very good, and provides another tie to the original film.

The plot of Psycho II has many issues. Norman Bates somehow retaining ownership of the property after 22 years seems very unlikely, and Mary ends up in the Bates' house very quickly. Characters like Toomey and Sheriff Hunt are very cliché. Dead bodies disappear too easily, and dumping a car into the swamp, shows no originality. And the secret culprit, seems to lack the physical ability to carry out the deeds. Despite these things, Psycho II is still an excellent suspense thriller. While not approaching the brilliance of the original, it is a success in many ways.

There is undoubtedly a fascinating backstory behind the making of this film, but unfortunately there are no bonus materials on the DVD release. After a 22 year gap between films, the solid commercial success of Psycho II would bring about a second sequel, Psycho III (1986), which picks up very shortly after the conclusion of Psycho II. The final chapter with Anthony Perkins, Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990) delves into the formative years of Norman Bates childhood.
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