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This 1983 sequel to Hitchcock's Psycho, the 1960 classic that started it all and inspired countless imitations, is skillfully directed by Australian filmmaker Richard Franklin (Patrick, Road Games) and once again stars Anthony Perkins in the role he's best remembered for, that of Norman Bates.
Years after the end of the first film that left poor Norman in the custody of the police to be locked away for the murders he committed, we know find him judged to be of sound mind and body. Theoretically fit to resume his place in society once more, Bates is freed from the mental hospital he'd called home for the last two decades and he heads back to the family abode. His release is not going unnoticed, however ,as Lila Loomis (Vera Miles of The Hellfighters) – the sister of the late Mary Loomis who fell victim to Norman's knife that fateful day in the shower of Room One at the Bates Motel – is fighting to keep him locked up where she believes he belongs.
State funding cutbacks have dictated that Norman won't end up in a halfway home but will be thrust directly back into the world as he was before his stay and so soon enough, Norman's back at the motel and trying to make a go of it. Soon though, he sees that ominous shadow of his mother in the upstairs window of the family home – or so he thinks. He tries to put it out of his mind and soon finds himself wooing a pretty waitress at a nearby diner named Mary (Meg Tilly of Agnes Of God) who he meets when he takes on a job there as a dishwasher. The two hit it off nicely and she moves in with him. When Norman starts getting the odd phone call from his dearly departed mother, however, it doesn't take long for a body count to start building once again – but who is behind the murders? Is it Norman? Is it the ghost of his mother? Is it someone else entirely?
While not on par with the original (few films really could be), Psycho II still manages to rise above the pack of dire horror movie sequels and comes out ahead as a well made and suspenseful slasher/thriller. Much of the credit for this has to go to director Richard Franklin, who is wise enough to let Perkins overact just ever so slightly in a couple of scenes, to remind us that, yes, Norman Bates might not be playing with a full deck, even if he did respond to the psychiatric treatment he received for over two decades – he does still have some obvious mother issues and while he's got plenty of good intentions, we all know where those tend to lead, right? Meg Tilly makes for a nice supporting actress here, bringing a sense of innocence and trust to her role that makes for an ideal counterpart to Bates, himself a bit of a child at times. The interplay between the two of them keeps things interesting and a key portion of the film depends on the success of their relationship – thankfully the two performers do well enough in this regard to make the movie a winner.
Direction and cinematography are slick and precise, showing Hitchcock's influence in terms of deliberate pacing and subtle clues to the final mystery. Franklin does a fine job of building suspense and while there isn't a scene in here to rival the intensity of the infamous shower scene from the first movie, there are a few stand out moments in the movie that, when judged on their own merit and not compared unrealistically to Hitchcock's film, are very well done and nicely executed. Franklin makes good use of the sets and the Bates Motel and the Bates home almost become characters in their own right, playing a large part in the feel of the movie and lending plenty of eerie shadows and creaky old furniture to add to the atmosphere.
Presented in it's original aspect ratio of 1.85.1 and enhanced for anamorphic playback, Universal's transfer of Psycho II looks very, very nice. There is some moderate film grain present in a few scenes that is most notable during some of the darker moments but other than that this is a very strong and very consistent picture. Edge enhancement is kept to a minimum and there aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts at all. Flesh tones look lifelike and natural and the black levels stay strong throughout playback. There's a pretty decent level of both foreground and background detail in the picture, and no issues with motion blurring or trailing. Color reproduction is strong, the red and orange hues in the movie don't bleed out at all, and there's really not much to complain about here in terms of video quality – the movie looks really good.Sound:
You've got your choice of watching the film in either an English language Dolby Digital 4.0 track, or a Spanish language Dolby Digital 2.0 track. Subtitles are optional in either English, French or Spanish. Sound quality is quite good for the most part. A few scenes exhibit some nice stereo effects that add to the mood and a few of the jump scares. The lower end could have been stronger than it is on this DVD however there's still some power behind it. Dialogue is clean and clear and easy to follow and there are no problems worth noting in regards to hiss or distortion. What Universal has supplied for this release is a no frills mix that gets the job done nicely without any overkill. Psycho II sounds like Psycho II should sound.Extras:
The only extra feature that we get on this release of Psycho II is the film's original theatrical trailer. Scene selection and audio setup options are also provided off of the main menu screen.Final Thoughts:
Lack of any real extra features not withstanding, Universal's release of Psycho II looks and sounds very good indeed. The movie itself? It holds up fairly well, actually. It's not the classic that the first film was but it's a well made little thriller and Perkins is fun in the lead role, turning in a nice performance. Recommended!
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.