The centuries-old debate over whether a person can be reformed, or if a leopard can change its spots, are important questions. It’s certainly not a topic that can be succinctly answered in half a paragraph. But it certainly makes for some interesting, drama, and even for another slasher. In 1983, attempting to follow on from the 50s classic, film-goers got to find out if the notorious Norman Bates could be rehabilitated. In the adaptation of Psycho II.
It has been two decades since the infamous Bates Motel murders, and Norman Bates has been institutionalised ever since. The doctors seem convinced that Bates is ready for normal society, yet Marion’s sister, Lila, is adamant that he should be locked up forever. Upon release, Bates finds that the world has changed, and despite some welcoming elements, may not be as keen to forgive him, some mock him, and murmurs persist. As new characters enter Norman’s life, reminiscent of people from Norman’s past, can he trust their intentions? As they add further wrinkles to Bates’s already fractured sanity, dark secrets are still to be revealed.
Naturally, a lot has changed since the original engrossed a nation, being made in 1983, does a lot to help differentiate the sequel from the classic. Jerry Goldsmith’s score does a lot to add to the atmosphere, yes it has a tough act to follow the iconic Bernard Herrmann, so the obvious tracks do return. The change in society is also manifested in the seediness of the Bates Motel. Since Bates’s depasture is personified by Franz’s character, Warren Toomey, brings into stark relief the changes from the conservative early 60s, and the calibre of horror films that Psycho finds itself in. The obvious question hangs in the air of whether Bates has reformed, and it is the relentless external scrutiny that will drive him back to insanity. He appears to be doing well, and at least half the community is on his side, yet when memories return and Murders begin, questions will soon be raised.
The return of Anthony Perkins and Vera Mills is a welcome one, a return that adds a little more authenticity to this decades-old sequel. Lila Crane, still seeking to get justice for her sister’s demise, will go to any length for it. Newcomers do a lot to flesh out Psycho II’s ideas, Outside the aforementioned Franz’s temporal owner of the Motel, Meg Tilly also serves as Mary, Bates’s new friend whose resemblance to Marion may be more than coincidental. The inclusion of Emma Spool is also an interesting addition, one that does a lot more than complicate Bates’s already convoluted relationship with Mother.
Psycho II is a unique film, though this positive review may be a little more than fashionably late, as modern retrospective has done a lot to exonerate its reputation. Still, it offers a fascinating attempt to follow Psycho, and that alone is a tough act to follow. Yet the seediness and the neon-tinge make Psycho II feel comfortably at home amongst the contemporary class of slashers, it certainly helped inspire. Including the new characters, weaving intricacies into the infamous story. If you looked past the scuttlebutt, this oft-overlooked film might be worth a check-in, if you haven’t considered it.
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