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Haunted Sideshow

Dustin Putman

Psycho IV: The Beginning  (1990)

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
2.5 Stars
(Release Date: August 23, 2016) – Over two decades before A&E series "Bates Motel" endeavored to explore Norman Bates' teenage years there was "Psycho IV: The Beginning," a direct prequel to the original series casting Henry Thomas (Elliot from 1982's "E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial") as 16-year-old Norman and Olivia Hussey (1974's "Black Christmas") as his unstable, tyrannical mother. Directed by Mick Garris, this made-for-cable continuation crisscrosses between the past and present, marking the events which led to Norman committing matricide and to his older self (Anthony Perkins, reprising his iconic role) as he calls into a talk radio show while contemplating killing once more.

Henry Thomas believably slides into the part of the put-upon, multiple personality-inflicted Norman, playing up his character's confusion and vulnerability while losing the fight against his guilt-stricken homicidal urges. As the unpredictable, abusive Norma, Olivia Hussey is deliciously spiteful, displaying love for her son one minute and irrational disdain and cruelty for him the next. CCH Pounder is impeccably cast as smooth-talking radio host Fran Ambrose, desperate to keep Norman on the phone for as long as possible as she struggles to convince him repeating his past murderous indiscretions isn't worth it. And, in what would become his final major role prior to his unfortunate death in 1992 due to AIDS-related pneumonia, Anthony Perkins brings a layered dignity, empathy and creepiness to the elder Norman Bates, now living a married life of domesticity that is about to snap.

Especially in light of the Emmy-nominated series starring Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga, "Psycho IV: The Beginning" covers much of the same territory but only barely scratches the surface of the psychological complexity within Norman. Still, like 1983's "Psycho II" and 1986's "Psycho III" before it, there is an elegance to the film which carried over throughout the franchise. None, of course, could compete with Alfred Hitchcock's classic 1960 original, but each is solid as far as sequels go, respecting the legacy of what had come before.

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

"Psycho IV: The Beginning" has some expected age-related flecks of dirt here and there, but its 1080p transfer appears to be in healthy shape for a film made in 1990. Colors and skin tones are accurate throughout—an early scene where the characters and interior of the Bates home are illuminated by unseen fireworks is particularly effective—while detail and clarity reveal a texture and palpability only high-definition can provide. The 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio confidently handles dialogue (always intelligible) and music and sound effects, from Bernard Herrmann's brilliant original theme to the piercing stabs of Norman's knife as he targets his first victim, promiscuous teenage girl Holly (Sharen Camille). Nicely done all around.

Blu-ray Features
  • NEW Audio Commentary with director Mick Garris and actors Olivia Hussey and Henry Thomas
  • NEW "The Making of Mother with Tony Gardner" Featurette (27:41, HD) - An interview with make-up effects artist Tony Gardner
  • "Behind the Scenes" Featurette (13:15, HD)
  • "A Look at the Scoring of Psycho IV" Featurette (6:12, HD)
  • Photo Gallery (6:06, HD)
Bottom Line
Scream Factory previously released wonderful Collector's Edition Blu-rays of "Psycho II" and "Psycho III" in 2013. Now, after a long wait, the eagerly awaited "Psycho IV: The Beginning" arrives on the format, completing the original series. Of the typical high quality Scream Factory is known for, the "Psycho IV: The Beginning" Blu-ray is another winner. The addition of a newly recorded audio commentary with director Garris and actors Hussey and Thomas sweetens the deal. Highly recommended for fans.

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© 2016 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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