I am sure that there are some people out there that will be like “What?! Psycho had sequels?” Yes, Psycho did have sequels, 3 in fact, along with two TV series, one that is about to start its fifth season. Psycho IV: The Beginning will be the one on for review today. Written by returning Psycho screenwriter Joseph Stefano; Anthony Perkins returns as Norman Bates, along with E.T. actor Henry Thomas playing the younger Norman in flashbacks. The movie attempts to tell the tale of how Norman grew up to be the infamous killer disguised as his mother. Does it succeed? Surprisingly, it does!
RUN-TIME: 96 min
ASPECT RATIO: 1.78:1
AUDIO: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
PRODUCTION DATE: 1990
RELEASE DATE: August 23, 2016
Before The Terror Can End, See How It All Began
Anthony Perkins, Henry Thomas and Olivia Hussey star in this chilling prequel to the classic Hitchcock thriller.
A seemingly rehabilitated Norman Bates (Perkins) is drawn to a late night radio show where the host (CCH Pounder, Tales From The Crypt Presents: Demon Knight) encourages him to share his views on the topic of matricide. Reliving his childhood, Norman recounts his trials of a young boy (Thomas, Ouija 2) living with his widowed schizophrenic mother (Hussey, the original Black Christmas). These haunting memories are more than just disturbing visions of the past; they threaten to rekindle his killing urge in this spine-tingling thriller directed by Mick Garris (The Stand, Masters of Horror).
I never saw Psycho II or III, so I cannot say for sure whether Psycho IV is better or worse. I can only judge the movie on its own merits.
Psycho IV: The Beginning starts off not at the beginning, but at the present time with a married Norman Bates living a supposedly happy life. However, deep down trouble is brewing and with the help of a radio talk show host (CCH Pounder – Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight), Norman discusses how he became who he was and why he murdered his mother all those years ago.
The movie bounces back and forth between the past and present, with most of the film taking place in the past. In order to allow time to develop Henry Thomas’ version of Norman Bates and Olivia Hussey as the mother of all wacky-doodle mothers Norma Bates, Perkins ends up on the sideline for a good part of the 96-minute runtime. This will no doubt irk many fans.
On a good note, Henry Thomas succeeds in capturing Anthony Perkins nuances quite well, but also provides his own take on a younger Norman. He is a scared, sheltered and coddled boy, who is in extreme love with his mother played by Olivia Hussey. Hussey struggles with an attempt at an “American” accent, but having her portray Norma Bates was an interesting idea, as the mother we have in our head of Norma is a batty old coot based on the voice we hear Norman speak. Instead, Norma is a beautiful woman, with a moody streak. One minute she is happy, the next she is flying off the handle and dressing Norman up like a girl and saying his downstairs parts are only for wee-wee and nothing else. If you ever thought that the relationship between Norma and Norman was a bit on the awkward side, strap yourself in for what is to come in this flick. Awkward is only one of many ways to describe it.
What I found interesting in Psycho IV: The Beginning was the use of extreme colour in the past scenes. The scenes glow with neon red and blue, providing the viewer with an Italian Giallo feel. I obviously was not the only one that thought that as director Mick Garris (Critters 2) mentions in the included commentary that an Italian Giallo, like the works of Argento and Bava, was exactly what he was going for. To offer a stark contrast from the original’s black and white, cinematography Rodney Charters pumped the colours up to a dreamlike quality. It’s an interesting concept that worked well.
Something that didn’t work as well, though, was the ending of the movie. All the buildup resulted in a too neatly wrapped package, producing a big groan from yours truly. I did not like the decisions made at the end of the movie and I feel like a lot of other people won’t either.
Musician Graeme Revell deserves a shout out at incorporating the original Psycho theme into the movie flawlessly. Supposedly, and again this is according to Mick Garris, the other sequels did not use the theme.
Director Garris also says this movie ignores Psycho II and III, but honestly, the movie does not do anything that could contradict the earlier films, although, like I mentioned before, I have not seen them. Unless Psycho III killed of Norman Bates, ignoring II and III was not necessary.
This movie ended up being Anthony Perkins’ last foray as Norman Bates and it was especially delightful to see him pick right up where he last left up. That man can drive home a creepy, unhinged performance like no other (Vince Vaughn should have taken notes). It is a shame that the film ended the way it did, but in another way, it was also a nice send off for the original, and one and only, Norman Bates.
Not only was Psycho IV: The Beginning released by Scream Factory, but II and III were as well. The differences between those two releases and IV and is the lack of the collector’s edition branding and no slipcover. Will that drive the OCD collector’s bonkers? You bet your ass it will.
Putting that aside, Scream Factory does a wonderful job with Psycho IV. The video transfer has a 1.78:1 style framing (originally framed at 1.33:1 as it appeared on TV, but the film did have theatrical showings, hence no problems with cropping issues using 1.78:1). As for any issues in the quality, there are a few scenes with some aggressive grain and dirt, but those scenes are few and far between. For the most part, the film is looking rather nice. The same goes for the clean DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 audio option.
Special Features are more than what is advertised on the back cover of the Blu. Instead of just a commentary with Mick Garris, Henry Thomas and Olivia Hussey, and some Behind the Scenes footage, you also get a 27-minute interview with make-up artist Tony Gardner, who discusses the makeup work on “Mother”. Also provided, is a neat look some behind of the scenes at the making of the music, which shows a full orchestra working on the theme. Finally, you have a 6-minute long photo gallery.
- NEW Audio Commentary With Director Mick Garris, Actors Henry Thomas And Olivia Hussey
- NEW The Making Of Mother – An Interview With Make-up Effects Artist Tony Gardner
- Rare Behind-The-Scenes Footage From Director Mick Garris
- Photo Gallery Of Rare Photos From Mick Garris
Psycho IV: The Beginning further expands on the history of Norman Bates and does so with an interesting backstory to keep the viewer glued to the screen. The highlight of the film is seeing Anthony Perkins and Henry Thomas’ pleasing performance at playing an old and young Norman Bates. The ending stumbles, but it does not stumble enough to not recommend the flick. As for the Blu-ray, Scream Factory has done a great job on the disc and any fan should definitely pick it up and slide it in neatly next to Psycho II and III (I know, no slipcover. Blah, blah, blah).