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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Psycho IV: The Beginning (Blu-ray)
Psycho IV: The Beginning (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory // R // August 23, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $27.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by William Harrison | posted August 28, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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THE FILM:

Click an image to view Blu-ray screenshot with 1080p resolution.

No, Psycho IV: The Beginning is not strictly necessary, but it is not half bad for a made-for-television sequel to an Alfred Hitchcock classic. The movie more or less ignores the events of Psycho II and Psycho III and takes a "Bates Motel" approach instead, picking up after Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) is "cured" and released from a mental hospital. Bates opens up to his audience for the first time, revealing dark secrets from his childhood in extended flashback sequences. The catalyst for this is radio personality Fran Ambrose's (CCH Pounder) segment on men who kill their mothers. Our charming antihero calls in to dispute some of the show's findings, and reveals that he is considering killing again. Why? Because his psychiatrist wife Connie (Donna Mitchell) is pregnant, and Bates fears his offspring will inherit his fractured psyche. Director Mick Garris keeps the tension high, and the performances are strong, particularly from Perkins and Olivia Hussey, who plays Norman's young, schizophrenic mother, Norma.

Years after the events of the first film, Bates is back in the wild, newly married and living in suburbia. He calls into a radio show focused on salacious stories of matricide, and, over the course of the film, reveals details of his troubled upbringing. Whether or not you believe Bates would be released from confinement without a full head of grey hair is immaterial, as Psycho IV: The Beginning deems him fit for release with enough energy to father a child with wife Connie. It is that revelation that threatens to send Bates over the edge. He explicitly avoided siring any offspring but Connie tricked him, and Bates fears this child will inherit the evil within him. The most disturbing on-screen killers often benefit from truncated backstories, and giving up the goods tends to eviscerate the mystery. That the film tries to explain Bates' madness is both its greatest strength and biggest weakness. Although Psycho IV: The Beginning is enjoyable, you simply do not need this much information about Bates to make the character effective.

Narrative flaws aside, the film has a lot going for it. Hussey is fantastically creepy as Bates' mother. Although Norman specifically denies any sexual overtones to this relationship, the flashbacks reveal a different story. After the death of Norman's father, Norma goes nuts, and her schizophrenia causes wild mood swings and inappropriate behavior. She wants a son, a provider and a lover, and confuses young Norman (Henry Thomas) for all three. At one point, Norma encourages her son to massage her feet and legs, asking him if her skin repulses him. When she finds nudie magazines in Norman's room, she flies off the handle, forcing him to dress like a girl and telling him he will never use "that thing" for anything sexual. Norman constantly defends his mother to DJ Ambrose, telling her she "doesn't know" their relationship and asserting that Norma was not always terrible. That may be true to an extent, and it also highlights the theme that Norman's mother did not cause him to kill.

The dark desire was birthed with Norman, and his mother only stokes the fire. The flashbacks are leeringly interesting, particularly when Norma begins seeing crude Chet Rudolph (Thomas Schuster), who attempts to toughen up Norman. Much of the film is spent waiting, of course, as the audience already knows Norman's fate. There are a couple of kills, which are relatively tame by horror-movie standards, but most of the film is about prolonged suspense and uneasy melodrama. Ambrose tries to keep Bates on the phone after he announces his intention to kill his wife and unborn child, and Bates finds some comfort in revealing his secrets to Ambrose. The film is well made, particularly given its Showtime pedigree, with solid work from director Garris, cinematographer Rodney Charters and editor Charles Bornstein. With strong performances and a good pace, your enjoyment of Psycho IV: The Beginning likely will hinge on whether or not you want to know a backstory that likely never ran through Hitchcock's mind.

THE BLU-RAY:

PICTURE:

Scream Factory offers a mostly impressive 1.78:1/1080p/AVC-encoded presentation for the film. There are moments of softness and uneasy grain, but the image benefits from bold colors and good fine-object detail. The film has a stylized look, particularly in the hazy radio studio. Black levels are good, and detail is readily apparent in darker scenes. Print damage is minimal, but I did notice minor film jitter in early scenes. Skin tones are accurate if slightly hot in scenes from Norman's house, and wide shots are crisp and clear throughout.

SOUND:

The 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio stereo mix is effective and without major flaws. The frequent dialogue is crisp, clear and without distortion, and the film's score and ambient effects are given room to breathe. There are a couple of moments that make use of the surrounds, and all the elements blend nicely. English subtitles are available.

PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:

Unlike Psycho II and Psycho III, Psycho IV: The Beginning does not receive an elaborate "Collector's Edition" from Scream Factory. Even so, this is a nice release; particularly for a film that I had some doubts would ever see an HD release. This single-disc release is packed in a standard case. The artwork is dual-sided, and photos from the film are found inside the case. Extras include The Making of Mother with Tony Gardner (27:41/HD), an interesting interview with the film's make-up effects artist. You also get some Behind the Scenes Footage (13:15/HD); A Look at the Scoring of Psycho IV (6:12/HD); a Photo Gallery (6:06/HD); and an Audio Commentary from Director Mick Garris, Olivia Hussey and Henry Thomas.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Scream Factory's anticipated release of Psycho IV: The Beginning does not disappoint. The film is enjoyable but somewhat superfluous, despite strong performances from Anthony Perkins, CCH Pounder and Olivia Hussey. The Blu-ray offers good picture and sound, and a handful of worthwhile supplements. Recommended.


Additional screenshots:

William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.

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