My review of ‘Psycho IV: The Beginning’ is just one sentence: I didn’t know that Norman Bates’ mother was British.
That was only one of the many things wrong with that movie. Thankfully, the franchise ended with that horrible film. However, I can’t help but think that some day, a studio or producer (one with no imagination and one that is scared to death of losing/making money) will re-boot this franchise and try to imitate or emulate the original great film. Money. That is the only reason why anyone would re-boot it, for the magic has already been had. You cannot get any better than the original ‘Psycho’ from 1960. Believe me, in this age of re-hashing and re-booting (because producers and studios are scared to take a chance on original material for financial reasons) it is only a matter of time before some one sitting around a boardroom table in L.A. with an abacus in front of them comes up with the brilliant idea to force upon us a re-imagining of the ‘Psycho’ franchise.
Alfred Hitchcock’s original ‘Psycho’ was brilliant. Unfortunately, the sequels appeared in the era of the slasher film and they resorted to slice and splatter rather than natural suspense to entertain the audience. (Yes, I am well aware of the shower scene in the original film). What happened to the sequels in the 1980s and how they denigrated into scenes of gratuitous violence (overpowering plot and character) is what happened to all of the horror franchises of the late 1970s and 1980s: The original films were great; the sequels were horribly done; a bunch of different people with different visions of how the sequels should proceed ruined the continuity of them; then the people who worked on the original films were brought in to try and clean up the mess and couldn’t because the continuity was ruined, audiences became confused, lost interest and the franchise died a slow and painful death (Halloween, Friday the 13th, etc.) – that is until Hollywood got into the re-boot business in the 2010s instead of funding original, creative stories.
The ‘Psycho’ franchise was mercifully stopped before the sequels permanently ruined its reputation. Taking the gratuitous slice and dice out of the equation, the plot after the original film was going along quite nicely until ‘Psycho IV’ appeared. Enough time had passed between the original film and ‘Psycho II’ to allow Norman Bates his time in incarceration. ‘Psycho III’ tied up the subplot nicely that revolved around the identity of Norman’s mother. Although I have reservations about the general film making in II and III, the story was solid. All of that unraveled in IV.
You would think that bringing in the screenwriter from the original film would make for a great film. Unfortunately, it is usually a colossal failure because the vision they have is skewed not only by the glory days of yore but by a director that has his own (very different) vision of the film. That’s the only explanation I can think of why IV was so disjointed, out of sequence, labored and dull. It would have probably helped if the filmmakers said that it was a direct sequel of the original film (which it kind of is, a little, I think). But they didn’t. They wanted people to forget about what happened in II and III (of course they didn’t, which ultimately confused the audience). As such, the premise is preposterous – Norman Bates out of prison?… Married and having a baby?! Are you kidding? And Olivia Hussey (a British actress with a British accent) as his mother?! What?!
‘Psycho IV’ never should have been made as it was. If I would have written the screenplay, I would never have conveniently forgotten about what happened in II and III (and insulting the intelligence of the audience in the process); Norman Bates would still be in a mental institution; the bulk of the film would be about his childhood and his relationship to his mother up until the time he killed her. I like the idea of him calling in to a radio show – but from prison – and relating his early life. I don’t like the idea of the film suddenly veering into the present and having the story be all about Bates attempting to kill his wife – it was a ridiculous plot twist that was hard to swallow. I couldn’t wait for the last 20 minutes to end because it was so ridiculous. By focusing on his early life instead of his present, the film would have been much more palatable.
As such, the franchise (like so many franchises before it) came crashing to a halt – mercifully before it soiled the reputation of the original brilliant film.
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