Psycho II (1983)

Genres - Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Thriller, Slasher Film  |   Run Time - 113 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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It's debatable whether or not a sequel to Psycho was really necessary, but Psycho II manages to beat the odds with surprising style. Not only is this a solid horror film, it's one of the best horror sequels ever made. The key to Psycho II's effectiveness is its old-fashioned approach to suspense. Despite the occasional flash of gore, this film is a subtle, low-key affair that earns its chills by concentrating on story and character. Tom Holland's clever script wisely takes its time to layer on its complications and surprises and builds gracefully to a final act full of shocks and surprises, especially its deviously clever final twist. Avowed Hitchcock disciple Richard Franklin does some fine work in the director's chair, quoting some of the most memorable visual devices from the original Hitchcock classic while working in some modern flourishes, including one memorably head-spinning crane shot. His skill makes it possible for him to turn even the simplest scene into a nail-biter: a great example is a scene where Norman's discovery of a note from Mother is intercut with a scene where Mary is harassed by Toomey. This sequence climaxes with a memorable dual-crescendo after building up a nerve-wracking amount of tension. Franklin also gets fine work from a fantastic support cast: Meg Tilly makes a likeably unconventional romantic interest, Dennis Franz is convincingly sleazy as the embittered former motel manager, and Vera Miles is frightfully intense as the woman obsessed with bringing Norman to justice by any means necessary. However, the most important attribute of the movie is the magnificent, understated performance by Anthony Perkins. He manages to turn a villain into a tragic hero, bringing out the humor and vulnerability in Norman Bates while also maintaining the quiet, menacing edge that keeps the audience guessing about his sanity. All in all, Psycho II is a clever, inspired piece of work that rises above its sequel status to stand on its own as an excellent exercise in suspense.