Eric’s Guide Through the “Psycho” Series
In 1960 one of if not the greatest film directors, Alfred Hitchcock made a film called ‘Psycho.’
It is said to be the first slasher film. That of course is contentious due to terms and ideas of what it means to be a slasher film. But like many of the slasher series that came afterwards “Psycho” spawned a whole series. Plus a crappy remake BEFORE it was cool. Let’s go through them and see which ones to bother watching and which to skip.
*SPOILER WARNING AHEAD*
5.) Psycho (1960)
I know I say this a lot, but man these are hard to write. Have you seen the most famous film by Alfred ‘Freakin’ Hitchcock? NO?! Fix that!! If you have seen it do you really need me to explain why it’s so great? Of course you don’t. I’ll try my best though. “Psycho” was based on a book by Robert Bloch. Hitchcock felt there was something unique to this story. He also decided to film it in an interesting way by hiring the crew of his TV show “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” to make the film and keep cost down. The writer, Joseph Stefano came up with a great way to tell the story by centering the first 1/3rd of the film on Janet Leigh’s character, Marion Crane. With one of the most shocking surprise death scenes in film history. So much so that they had to ban anyone who came into the theater to see “Psycho” after the film began in order to keep the secret and drum up even more hype. Bernard Herman’s score is one of the most iconic scores in all of film history. Anthony Perkins plays Norman Bates with humanity which just makes the darker aspects of his character all the more deep. You really feel sorry for him even if you know the twist.
I guess the only new aspect I can add would be to throw my hat in the ring with my opinion of the debated therapist scene. In the end of the movie, it is revealed that Norman Bates is actually dressing up and pretending to be his mother to kill anyone (particularly women) who may try to upset the relationship he and his “mother” seem to have. Most critics feel that this scene should have been cut and was just explaining things to the audience that they could just tell from having sat through the movie. I can see that criticism and even Alfred Hitchcock’s initial instinct was to cut it out. However, the writer Joseph Stefano who had a personal history of psychoanalyst fought to have the scene included. He felt it was something most moviegoers would need to hear in order to understand. Honestly, beyond the dated reasons for including it I still find the scene interesting enough for building a more complete view of Norman. Also, on the editing side I feel it makes sense to have the exciting moment of the twist and then a quieter, somewhat dry scene. It’s telling you information, but it’s also letting you relax a little before its final shot of Norman in the prison cell. I personally feel this moment wouldn’t feel as effective if it didn’t have some time to build back up. But that’s just my two cents.
Eric’s advice: Hello! Hello anybody home, of course you watch the film Mcfly!
4.) Psycho II
It seems as soon as Alfred Hitchcock was laid to rest Hollywood decided we needed another “Psycho” film. In the years leading up to finally watching this myself I had mostly heard how good this film is, which is odd for such a late sequel to a classic. Seeing it for myself I have to admit it is much better than it has any right to be. Doesn’t make it as good as “Psycho” or even just a great film on its own, but it’s still pretty good. I wouldn’t mind seeing it again. A thing to note though is unlike the original film which was a pretty faithful adaptation of the book, this “Psycho 2” has no relation to the novel of the same name written by the original author. Amazingly Anthony Perkins and Vera Miles return as Norman Bates and Lila Crane respectively. While it is weird to see them in color it still mostly feels like them (I’ll get to that) and helps this seem like an official continuation. The story is that after all of this time Norman is being released apparently completely rehabilitated. Lila Crane doesn’t believe it, but there’s not much for her to do. Norman returns to his home and motel, gets a job as a fry cook at a diner. It’s there he meets a young woman Mary (Meg Tilly) and they start a little relationship while trying to maintain a normal life. Strange things begin to happen until finally dead bodies begin to pile while Norman fears he’s lost his mind again.
Mary after having developed true feelings for Norman tries to help him understand it’s all fake. She knows this because she and her mother Lila Crane have been trying to make him relapse. However, after someone dressed in all black murders Lila it becomes clear someone else may be after Norman. A majority of the most interesting things about the movie are the things I wish got more focus. I think the idea of taking the strong, likeable heroine of the last film and making her into a villain due to her becoming obsessed over this wrong that was done to her sister is intriguing. In that regard it’s kinda like the “Planet of the Apes” remake except A.) this is still a good movie on its own and B.) there’s no better version out there that actually does focus on the fascinating parts this just hints at… for now. I think the most interesting parts as is are how most of the big “scare” moments are about Norman NOT doing typical slasher actions. He sees a butcher’s knife and has the chance to kill someone and the music blares, but he has to fight this impulse. That certainly made it more interesting than most slasher films.
Eric’s advice: Watch if curious.
3.) Psycho III
The low point of the original series for several reasons. I have to admit the setup is interesting. Imagine you’re just looking to work and to keep a low profile and happen to find a job at an old out-of-the-way motel. Everything seems alright until you realize your boss is none other than Norman Bates. Talk about a boss from hell. We also have the story of a disgraced nun also looking for a job. She begins to develop feelings for an apparently similar lost soul, but again in this case that lost soul being Norman Bates. Talk about a date from he… well you get the idea. We also have a local reporter trying to uncover the deaths from “Psycho 2” which only takes place a few months before this story. Anthony Perkins again slips back into the role perfectly although this time he also steps into the directing chair. Let me tell you this film has all of the symptoms you might expect of that.
Whereas “Psycho 2” tried to go its own way for better or worst this film feels more like a rehash of the original. There are a lot of recreated shots and sequences. I get why any filmmaker is drawn to recreate Hitchcock, but it causes this film to lose some of its own identity. We also get a number of those extremely artsy shots that just scream new director wanting to make sure his style is noticed. A particularly effective one being when Norman is disposing of a dead body at night. The screen is pitch black with only the white light forming an outline of Norman being visible. Kudos to the cinematographer on that one. While those things I mentioned are good or at the very least interesting there’s also a lot that doesn’t work. The relationship between the nun and Norman isn’t as developed as it could have been. Worst of all is the character of the reporter. And you know what? I SHOULD like her or at the very least be invested with her as she is doing the right thing and trying to uncover the truth. The problem is just how annoying she is with how preachy she acts. Ya I was rooting for the serial killer over her. Also, despite how much of a thoroughly unlikable person they make her, I think the film actually thought we’d be cheering for her or worried she die. I was neither. The whole film just feels like a big step backwards from the last film.
Eric’s advice: Skip it.