There are a number of films to have garnered such a strong legacy that the thought of a sequel and the evolution into a cinematic franchise is kind of nauseating.
I’m sure this feeling manifested itself when a sequel to “Chinatown” was made, when rumors of a “Casablanca” sequel arose, and, of course, when a second installment in the “Psycho” film storyline was released.
Perhaps at this point in time, with all the subsequent “Psycho”-related material available and the A&E series currently airing, the preciousness of the original motion picture may have dissipated long ago. But for those who hold a great deal of reverence for Hitchcock or the initial masterpiece, approaching such a movie may still summon some immediate apprehension.
Luckily, “Psycho II” is a pleasant surprise of a sequel that doesn’t belittle the first entry or the responsibilities it has acquired by following in its footsteps.
We follow Anthony Perkins, back as the captivating Norman Bates, some 20-odd years after the Marian Crane incident as he is released from the asylum back to the motel and Mother’s house.
As the story progresses, a point of deviation becomes clear – Whereas the first Norman Bates tale was something of a suspenseful prototypical slasher-style film, “Psycho II” focuses much more on the mystery inherent in the plot. As such, this is not so much the horror film one would expect as it is a modern Agatha Christie-esque whodunnit.
And as such, this is a pretty engaging and fun flick. The acting is quite good, especially from Perkins who gives a familiar-yet altered take on the Norman character, the story is solid, and most importantly, we care about what’s going on.
There’s a tricky element to this story in that the filmmakers are playing with our sympathies so that we feel more for Norman than anyone else onscreen. It’s an uneasy sympathy for sure, but nevertheless, we are essentially rooting for a convicted murderer with a weak grip on his own sanity.
If the film has any glaring flaws, however, it is in the ending of the story. Since the film relies heavily on the viewer’s lack of foreknowledge, it wouldn’t be fair to give the details, but there is one twist at the finale which seems a bit too convenient (and frankly kind of lame) as a set-up for another sequel.
Even so, “Psycho II” is nowhere near as insulting one might think a sequel to the Hitchcock film might have been in spite of its flaws. In fact, as a continuation of the story, this is an addition that does unexpectedly well.
It’s far from reaching the same heights as the original to be certain, but if you’re willing to accept this conceit and simply go along for a fun mystery movie, you won’t regret it.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5