|Psycho II (1983)
Reviewed by Dustin Putman
(Release Date: September 24, 2013) - It isn't every day that a 23-year-old film earns a major studio-produced sequel, and it is all the more chancy when said continuation is based upon, arguably, the most popular film of Alfred Hitchcock's career. Universal Pictures and director Richard Franklin risked making a mockery of themselves by taking on this project in the first place, and one can imagine plenty of ways that it might have fallen apart. Fortunately, "Psycho II" is just about as successful as one could have possibly hoped. Even if it does not live up to the 1960 original, this is still a classy, splendidly composed follow-up that pays tribute to Hitchcock while respectfully updating and building upon the story and characters already established.
Twenty-two years after Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) was institutionalized for the multiple murders he committed at his Bates Motel, he is deemed rehabilitated by the courts and released. Norman returns to the home he once shared with his domineering late mother and looks toward reopening the motel. Getting a job at a nearby diner where he meets and befriends boy-troubled Mary (Meg Tilly), Norman hopes to be moving on with his life until he receives a note that appears to have been written by his mother. When a teenage boy disappears after sneaking down into the cellar on Norman's property, the police start sniffing around. Meanwhile, Lila Crane (Vera Miles), sister of shower victim Marion, is convinced Norman is still very much ill and poses an immediate threat to the citizens of Fairvale.
Set up as a twisty murder mystery as much as a horror film, "Psycho II" is constructed in such a way that it is impossible to guess where things are headed and who the murderer is. Has Norman snapped again, or is someone else trying to frame him? Anthony Perkins slides with grace back into the complicated role of Norman, struggling to keep a handle on his sanity, and Meg Tilly is lovely as a young woman who may be in grave peril the longer she hangs around him. "Psycho II" is a psychologically scary and handsomely mounted thriller.
For a thirty-year-old film released at a time in the early-1980s when film stocks being used emitted a softer, blander image , "Psycho II" looks great in its high-definition 1080p Blu-ray transfer. A tribute to Dean Cundey's cinematography, the iconic house looming above the dusty motel has never looked so vivid. With a fine, accurate layer of grain existing throughout, it is clear that this is a true-to-source video that has not been obtrusively scrubbed clean or DNR'ed to death. Interestingly, the picture looks so good that it now dates some of the effects work, the matte painting of the rolling California hills behind the motel looking strikingly fake. Even with the occasional minor specks popping up here and there and a shot of Lila leaving her hotel in town more pale and faded than what surrounds it, "Psycho II" has never looked so attractive. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio (incorrectly listed as DTS-HD 4.0 on the back of the Blu-ray box) isn't exactly active in its back channels, but dialogue is always clear and the elegant music score by Jerry Goldsmith pleasingly full-bodied. For purists, there is also the lossless original 2.0 track available that is just as good, if not preferable.
Audio Commentary with Screenwriter Tom Holland, Moderated by Rob Galluzzo; Play Film with Cast and Crew Interviews - Audio Only; Cast and Crew Interviews - a vintage behind-the-scenes Electronic Press Kit (35:21, HD); Trailers (3:43, HD); TV Spots (2:01, HD); Still Gallery (6:37, HD)
"Psycho II" has its admirers, and understandably so. It is a close-to-great sequel that reverentially nods its hat to its classic predecessor. Universal never really gave the film the treatment it deserved on home video, so thank the heavens Scream Factory has come along to do it right. Easily the best package that has ever been released in ancillary markets, the Blu-ray of "Psycho II" looks and sounds wonderful, and comes with a number of informative and entertaining special features that only sweeten the pot. Highly recommended.