Hitchcock’s 1960 film Psycho is a horror classic. It features images that have become ingrained in popular culture, such as the famous shower scene, the image of the corpse sitting on its chair in the fruit cellar, and Norman Bates’s evil smile to close off the film. It offers many brilliant performances, many subtle notes, and many reasons to come back to the film again and again. Really, it’s a story that doesn’t need to be continued – a story that you almost don’t want to see continued, because the narrative gaps that are left into the film are all ones that you enjoy filling in for yourself. And yet they made a sequel. Yay?
So, yeah, let’s get that out of the way first: this is a sequel that doesn’t really need to exist. The first Psycho was complete unto itself, no one was really clamouring to see how Norman Bates’s story continued, and although the book that Psycho is based on does have a sequel, this film is not based on it. And considering the fact that the first film was a classic, there’s absolutely no chance whatsoever that this film can compare. But that being said, a lot of horror sequels aren’t really necessary, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be enjoyed for what they are.
And there are quite a few things that this film has working in its favour. Anthony Perkins returns to play Norman Bates, and his performance was a highlight of the first film. He was the awkwardly charismatic man with a secret, someone who you knew wasn’t quite right but you weren’t quite sure how not right until the movie’s end. Well, in this film, all pretense is dropped and we know how not right Norman Bates is. Sort of. I mean, we know the crimes that he is responsible for in the past, but interestingly enough, the film’s conflict comes from the fact that Norman Bates has been released into the public, considered legally sane, and yet murders have begun springing up again, and Norman has begun receiving messages from his mother again. Is he losing his mind again, or is someone working against him?
On the one hand, I like this conflict. I feel like, at some point, it was the makings for a very strong script. I like the idea of humanizing a person who is extremely mentally ill and responsible for terrible crimes. But, at the same time, there is a fine line between humanizing someone and ignoring the fact that they are a serial murderer, and this film crosses that line sometimes. There are multiple points throughout the film where other characters are accused of being “just as crazy as Norman,” and unless they’ve also hacked up women in the shower because they dared to be attractive, I’m going to say that isn’t true. There are simply too many times in this film where it feels like the writers forget the things that Norman is responsible for, and more than that, they forget just how mentally ill he was. They forget about the internalized misogyny that made him want to punish women he found attractive. They forget that his alter-ego “Mother” was not solely responsible for the things he did, and that getting rid of that alter-ego would not completely cure him and make him an average, neurotypical man. And, yes, I know that time has passed since the first film and that Norman has been in mental institutions ever since, but a) the first film established that Norman had been in psychiatric care before and it hadn’t cured him completely, and b) I can only buy that Norman has changed a certain amount, and being replaced with an entirely different character is not enough.
And, not to mention, there are a lot of plots in this film, to a point where I felt somewhat confused about what was going on. Without spoiling anything, there are multiple villains throughout the film and not all of them are working with one another. Norman just seems to attract crazy. A subplot is introduced regarding the possibility that Norman may or may not have adopted, and I’m not really sure what this subplot adds to the universe of the Psycho films. It just feels really ridiculous and unnecessary.
But that being said, I went into a film called Psycho 2. I was prepared for ridiculous and unnecessary, and that is exactly what I received in abundance. I do not feel let down by the film that I saw, not in the least, and as much as I’m aware that it was a bad film, it still held my interest all the way through. I got the impression that the writer behind this film watched the first Psycho and thought: “This is good, but what if it was more sympathetic toward Norman, and what if the women were all the villains instead?” and that choice was simply so befuddling to me that I wanted to keep watching. And by the time the film ended, I felt like I had thoroughly enjoyed myself.
So the way I see it, when you come across a film called Psycho 2, you know what you’re getting into. You know that it’s probably going to be a little over-the-top, a little ridiculous, and considering it was a sequel to a horror film made in the 1980’s, a little gory. And as long as you expect that, rather than the brilliance of the first film, you will not be disappointed. You might even have a lot of fun with it.