Saying that making a sequel to Hitchcock's PYSCHO was a tall order is something of an understatement, but—near the end of the 1980s slasher movie boom—that is exactly what director Richard Franklin and writer Tom Holland did.
PSYCHO II opens with a recap of the original's famous shower scene. Whilst it invites unfavourable comparisons with what was to come at least it tackles its formidable legacy head on. Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins reprising his legendary role) is judged restored to sanity by a Californian court and free to leave custody despite the protests of Lila Loomis (Vera Miles also reprising her earlier role as the sister of Janet Leigh's character). However, returning to the the Bates Motel he is horrified to find it now over-run with vice (overseen by the sleazy caretaker played by NYPD BLUES' Dennis Franz)—presumably chock full of the 'sluts' mother wouldn't approve of! It isn't long before he starts hearing his mother's voice again. Trying to become a useful member of society, Bates gets a job at local diner and strikes up a friendship with a troubled waitress (Meg Tilly)—telling her, “I don't kill people any more, remember?”. However, it turns out that Lila Loomis is determined to send Norman back to the nuthouse, and will stop at almost nothing to do so. Bates' psychiatrist (Robert Loggia) starts to believe that it's no longer all in his mind. Meanwhile, someone dressed as mother is soon up to their homicidal tricks.
Perkins is once again at his twitchy best, with Bates spending much of the film hesitating over knives like an alcoholic craving a glass of scotch. The film riffs off familiar themes—both visual and thematic—from the original: showers; peep holes in the bathroom wall; and naked female flesh. Part of the fun is in watching Norman's hard won sanity unravel, and trying to guess if he is behind the murders or they are by the hand of another.
Franklin plays lip service to the contemporary subgenre with the introduction of horny, pot smoking 1980s teen victims and fairly graphic slasher murders (the murder of a woman who has a large knife shoved in her mouth and out the back of her neck is especially eye-popping). Supposedly, Jamie Lee Curtis was considered for Tilly's role—which would have provided perfect symmetry, seeing as John Carpenter is said to have hired her for HALLOWEEN because of her mother's role in Hitchcock's original. Curtis, of course, was in the director's earlier quasi-slasher, ROAD GAMES (1981), so it's not beyond the realms of possibility.
PSYCHO II works hard to keep the shocks and twists coming, and most of the time is succeeds. Not surprisingly, the film met with mixed reviews, but scared up an impressive $34,725,000 at the domestic box office—a lot more than most slasher movies of the time (and a shade more than the same year's FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 3).
Suspenseful and craftily plotted, PSYCHO II is perhaps better than it has any right to be.
BODYCOUNT 7 female:4 / male:31) Female slashed to death with knife in the shower