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eighties horror you might have missed

Psycho II (1983)

Anyone who loves the original Psycho is going to be at least a little hesitant to see something called Psycho II. The idea of creating a sequel to (or remake of) any Hitchcock film seems like a very bad idea - especially during the eighties. Originally, the plan was to do a TV movie, but when Anthony Perkins agreed to reprise his role, things changed. While it's not Hitchcock, the result is an interesting, well-constructed story that is perfectly paced and more restrained than you might expect of a sequel from this period.

The premise is that Norman Bates has been in a psychiatric facility since the events that took place in the first film (23 years earlier) and is now rehabilitated, ready to be released back into the world. We see how much things have changed in an early scene where Bates walk past a Ms. Pac Man arcade game (another sequel). Other than that, there aren't a lot of reminders of the present-day - most of the film takes place in and around the Bates house (the same set was used from the original film, but the motel had to be rebuilt).

Meg Tilly stars as Norman's new-found friend, who accepts his offer to stay at the Bates house, despite her misgivings. She and Perkins both deliver excellent performances. Dennis Franz plays the new slimeball manager of the motel (very similar to his character in Blow Out). Robert Loggia plays Norman's doctor. I hadn't realized until now that the Dr. Loomis character in Halloween is a reference to Janet Leigh's boyfriend in the original Psycho.

Visually there are lots of Hitchcock references - tilted angles and extreme overhead shots, provided by Dean Cundey who was DP on all of the Carpenter films up to this point. Australian director Richard Franklin, was selected on the strength of his previous films: Patrick (1978) and (particularly) Road Games (1981). The screenplay was written by Tom Holland, who also wrote scripts for The Beast Within, Fright Night and Child's Play.

The thing that I like best about Psycho II is how it continually questions the success of Norman's rehabilitation, while showing his struggle to reintegrate into a community that is well aware of his past. His character is fairly sympathetic too; it's a bit like Japanese monster movie franchises from the past (such as Godzilla and Gamera) where the creature is an evil, destructive force in the first film, but returns as a benevolent protector in the sequels. I don't want to reveal too much, but the film has a great ending that opens up the possibility for further sequels (which would come with Psycho III in 1986 and Psycho IV in 1990 - both starring Perkins; I haven't seen either yet).