It’s 20 years since Norman (Anthony Perkins) was committed to an institution after carrying out a shower-based bloodbath. Now sane, he is released against the wishes of Lila Loomis (Vera Miles), who has apparently become a reactionary old Daily Mail reader in the intervening 20 years. Norman returns to his motel and gets a job as a dish washer with a young girl called Mary (Meg Tilly), but as he tries to get on, his past comes back to haunt him…
Psycho is up there with Jaws and Donnie Darko on the list of films that didn’t need a sequel. While this second parter, made 23 years after the original, has moments which come close to greatness, what kills it is its attempts to be unpredictable. To try and match the surprise of the original it contains scenes which range from the slightly implausible to the downright absurd, and asks us to suspend our disbelief one too many times to make up for the shaky, under-explained bits. By the end you will be more bemused than scared.
Perkins is in his element reprising his role as Norman, but Tilly destroys the character of Mary with one of the all time worst movie performances. Every line she says induces a wince of agony, and even when she’s not talking she’s awful. She can’t even shower convincingly. Tilly’s murder of her character is the most brutal killing in this film. Hitchcock is probably spinning in his grave, which would make a much scarier film.
What is likeable about this film is its treatment of Norman, and closer examination of his condition. In the original he was the bad guy, and we were kept in the dark as to what he was up to. Now he finally gets the attention he deserves. It also keeps the visual style very much in line with the original with a number of self conscious nods, most obviously in the way the camera behaves. It has some scary and creepy moments too, with added gore and nudity that wouldn’t have passed the censors in 1960. Following Psycho can’t be an easy task and this could have been far worse.
This sequel is enjoyable enough if you’re prepared to abandon logic, but this may be too great an ask for people expecting something comparable to one of the greatest films ever made.