Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Yes, Norman, You Are Becoming Confused Again: Psycho 2

In one of my writing magazines there was a recent article about how to have a successful blog. Be useful and entertaining, it said. I wondered if I was either of those things, probably entertaining on my best days but useful? What is the use of this blog when there are millions of others like it?

THEN I WATCHED PSYCHO 2.

And decided that I am useful, useful in that I will blather on forever about films that probably no one else cares about. If I can point out one or two things that will result in someone else's enjoyment of a ridiculous film, even if it's really only one person, ever, I'll be happy. And also I realized that I write this blog basically for myself and maybe my brother, and if there's a great beyond, my old man, so while being useful has its rewards, being nostalgic is infinitely more me.

Psycho 2, 1983, directed by Richard Franklin. IMDB says: After twenty-two years of psychiatric care, Norman Bates attempts to return to a life of solitude... but the specters of his crimes -- and his mother -- continue to haunt him


If you make the commitment to watch this, think of it as something completely different from the original, like a crazy Cousin Eddie, maybe, and appreciate the comedy. The script is not good, it's kind of atrocious, actually, but if you can forgive it these things, sit back and giggle a little, you'll probably have an okay time.


Things that make this a decent sequel: The characters are pretty well done; Lila Loomis (Lila Crane) from the original makes a return, played by the same actress, Vera Miles. She's quite bitchy. Mary (Meg Tilly), Doctor Raymond (Robert Loggia), and whoever that sheriff was were all stellar.


DENNIS FRANZ as replacement motel manager Warren Toomey. Gets his own paragraph, that's how much I liked him. Just trashy and gross, but well done. After Norman fires him and he comes to the diner and starts talking smack ("Last time I eat here!") and then shows up at the motel to pick up his things, shouting and kicking up dirt ("Hey, Psycho, I want you to know I'm movin' out!")? I thought he was a nice, sleazy, comic relief. Things don't end very well for him, however.


Good use of transitional items from Norman's past: His hand hovers over cabin one when Mary comes to the hotel, he opens the silverware drawer and a large butcher knife is laid right over the top, the special tea brew that he used on the old lady is still in the cupboard in a decorative tin, etc. These things are as obvious as a smack on the head with a shovel (ala Emma Spool) but I think they all work. Inserting black-and-white flashbacks together with the items would definitely have been pushing it, this is how they related random objects to the plot in The Ring and it sucked big time---they didn't do that here, thank God. Anthony Perkins's Norman is twitchy, stammering, and just sort of dingy most of the time, but I think it works as a mental patient's normal reaction to entering society after being in the clink for so long.


Norman plays the piano! The notes left about, signed, Mother! The glance he gives the butcher knife at the diner when Toomey berates him! "I'm starting to become confused again, aren't I, Mary?" Nice little random items. And the Bates house really never ceases to thrill me, I love how they still call it "the fruit cellar!" Why not just cellar, or basement?


Things that are kinda lame: Again, the script. Most of the dorky lines fall on Meg Tilly ("just because two people sleep under the same roof doesn't necessarily mean they've made love. . . ") 


Lila Loomis is really abrasive and reactionary, always stomping off and flying off the handle. Tone it down a little, Vera.


The ending is decidedly ridiculous. But you see it coming.


I probably saw this at way too early an age, like everything else on this list, but my most memorable viewing of this was with Charlie, my brother, and Erica, my best friend who lived across the lawn from us. We watched it on a summer night and then made poor Erica walk home ALONE in the dark (nice friends!). I didn't find out until later just how scared she had been, and for good reason. There are three scenes from this film that literally chill my bones: (honorable mention goes to faux-Mrs. Bates hovering in window).


1. The kid that gets offed in the fruit cellar. Two kids sneak into the house (to get high and do it) and someone dressed as Mother Bates surprises them. The sound of her clogs on the basement floor, the snappy way she looks over at them when she hears a noise (not to mention that disgusting, evil potato the girl picks up before they get busy) and of course the repeated plunges into the kid's back with the knife as seen outside the window---ugh. Why the hell would you sneak into someone's scary old house when there is a motel basically inches away? Yuck.


2. The Bloody Towel in the Toilet. This is memorable mostly because it just comes out of no where; Norman goes upstairs to wash his hands and all of a sudden, thick, dark blood comes bubbling out of the toilet and sink. When Mary comes up to find him this way, she tiptoes over to the toilet, plucks the towel out and then flings it into the sink, making a hilarious splat and then snarls, "Je-SUS!" This was another scene that Charlie rewound probably eighty times each time we watched it. So creepy but funny, too.


3. The Near Conclusion, Where Norman Smiles into the Phone. After he starts to go a bit looney again, Norman starts actually talking to a caller he believes to be his mother. Usually he answers the phone, hears who it is, SWITCHES HANDS, and starts telling her how happy he is to talk to her. The creepy smiling happens toward the end, and more than once, I believe. Maybe it's meant to be a tribute to the original conclusion, Norman's creepy smile in the police room, but it gives me goose bumps. Yuck.


So it's campy. Definitely eighties, and definitely something that would make Hitchcock roll over in his grave, but it's not all bad. I had to watch this on VHS (thanks, Nik) in broad daylight, but it was still a good time. There's not nearly as much comedy as Psycho 3, COMING UP NEXT, and regrettably there's no Jeff Fahey, but if you like scary movies, you could do a lot worse.










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