Okay, here’s the short version of this review: Psycho II is a much better movie than any movie calling itself Psycho II should be.
Alright, let’s go a bit deeper, then. When a movie calls itself Psycho II and opens with the classic and infamous shower scene from the 1960 original, it is making certain promises to the audience that it had better be able to deliver on.
Fortunately, the movie delivers more than one would expect.
Opening 22 years after Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) was sent to a mental asylum. Psycho II opens with his release after being declared recovered and having accepted the fact that his mother is truly dead.
Moving back to the family house and attempting to re-open the Bates Motel, Norman also gets a job at a local diner. That is where he meets a young lady named Mary Samuels (Meg Tilley) who needs a place to stay after having broken up with her boyfriend. Norman invites Mary to stay with him at the hotel, though after a bit of thought and a fight with his hotel manager Warren Toomey he actually has her stay at the house with him.
Norman’s recovery seems to be going well until he begins seeing mysterious notes and receiving phone calls purporting to be from his mother. He is also the victim of distrust and outright hatred from a number of people in the town who seem to wish that he would simply go away so that they would not have to deal with him or the memories he represents anymore.
Not everyone is against Norman, however. Sheriff John Hunt, who was only a deputy at the time of the original killings is sympathetic to Norman and his plight and goes out of his way to try to make sure that everything is okay with him and to keep the peace between Norman and the townsfolk. He also has the support of Dr. Bill Raymond (played by Robert Loggia) who was his psychiatrist in the institution and continues to check up on him.
However, not long after Norman’s release, Lila Loomis (Vera Miles, also reprising her role from the original film) arrives in town trying to convince the sheriff that Norman is still insane and trying to get him arrested and re-committed.
I am not going to go much further into the plot, because there are far too many twists and turns that really should be left for the viewer to discover. Suffice to say that murders once again begin occurring around the hotel, and the question becomes one of whether Norman has reverted to his earlier ways and just how long he will be able to hold on to his fragile grip on his sanity.
It really is amazing how seemingly effortlessly Perkins slips right back into his most famous role. He brings the same pathos and tension that he did in the 60 original and it’s very easy to see Norman growing up to be exactly like this after all that he has been through. Vera Miles also brings a passion to her role as someone who has never let go of the horror of her sister’s death (she is the sister of Marion Crane, the character portrayed in the original film by Janet Leigh, and yes, I would call it a cheat to bring in a sister to add pathos had she not already been established in Hitchcock’s original) and my viery well have been driven as insane by her experiences as Norman.
Meg Tilley is also a standout in her role as Mary who seems to come to care deeply for Norman but who may have a secret or two of her own.
The producers (Hilton A. Green and Bernard Schwartz), director (Richard Franklin), and writer (Tom Holland) all deserve a lot of credit for crafting a movie that pays loving tribute to the original yet actually stands as a credible movie on its own. Yes, there are references and call-backs to the classic (both visually and in dialogue, but they are not overdone and the tension is kept high throughout. I will say that the ending is one of those love it or hate it types, that could certainly be divisive, but personally I find it satisfying for the most part.
All in all, I have to say that as a fan of the original and of Hitchcock in general (I list Rear Window in my top five films of all time) I found this sequel to be quite satisfying. Yes, there are nods to the new times (a flash of nudity and slightly more graphic violence), but even those are used sparingly and to good effect. Call me crazy if you feel you must, but this is a sequel I like.