Wonder with me for a moment, if you will, if Alfred Hitchcock's classic Psycho (1960) had remained a film untouched by Sequel Fever until today. What if, when you logged in to Facebook, your feed was full of you horror-loving cyber-friends talking about a newly-announced Psycho II and linking to stories on all the genre news websites? What if the book had only come out last year? For the sake of this exercise, I'm making like the cast would be the same as is was in 1983, when Psycho II came out...or, at least Anthony Perkins would be reprising his role as Norman.
Look, there's really no deep thought at work here. I'm just wondering how much Internet Outrage there would be...because I get the feeling that horror fans would be incensed. I'm sure I would have chimed in with a WHAT PSYCHO DOESN'T NEED A SEQUEL, or something equally erudite and meaningful.
Because really, Psycho II doesn't need to exist, and it certainly shouldn't be good. And yet, it manages to do both of those things. This is some Ripley's Believe It or Not shit!
Norman Bates (Perkins) is released from an institution 22 years after the events of Psycho. He heads home (bad idea #1) and tries to make a go at a normal life- working in a diner, not killing people, etc. He becomes friends with Mary (Meg Tilly), a waitress at the diner, and invites her into Stately Bates Manor (bad idea #2) when a bad breakup leaves her homeless. Before you can say "bad idea #3", Norman is running Bates Motel again and receiving phone calls and notes from dear old mom. And someone who looks just like dear old mom is spotted throughout the house- is she not really dead? Is Norman up to his old shenanigans?
You'll honestly be wondering what's what in Psycho II right up until...mmm, about 5 seconds before the credits roll, and I don't mean in a confused sort of way. Everything here makes sense- it's just, you see, there is mystery afoot.
Psycho II is the last thing you'd expect: it's super enjoyable. Watching poor Norman struggle to keep it together, waiting for him to pick up where he left off 22 years earlier...it's a delight, oscillating between fear of Norman and fear for Norman.
The violence, when it comes, is fast, brutal, and shocking. Psycho II opens by presenting Hitchcock's shower scene in full (wait, not his shower scene...that would be...eh, you know what I mean), and man, watching it last night...I mean, it's perhaps the most famous scene in horror film history. Everyone has seen it a billion times. Everyone has aped it, miming the stabbing motions and butchering Herrmann's famous score. It's sort of taken for granted how amazing that scene is, but last night it sort of butchered my face and I re-realized just how horrifying it is. I know, duh. But it was some rare touched for the very first time kind of nonsense and it was great. I am just saying.
So listen up, folks- including you, self- the next time there's some announcement and you take to your keyboard or teletype and you start with the WHAT A SEQUEL THAT IS A TERRIBLE IDEA! AN OUTRAGE- THIS IS ONE!, just keep telling yourself: but Psycho II was good...but Psycho II was good...but Psycho II was good...
And I didn't even get into the Meg Tilly-ness of it all!