Psycho II Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review
Directed by Richard Franklin
Written by Tom Holland
1983, Region A, 113 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on September 24th, 2013
Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates
Meg Tilly as Mary Samuels
Robert Loggia as Dr. Raymond
Vera Miles as Lila Loomis
Dennis Franz as Warren Toomey
Hugh Gillin as Sheriff Holt
Norman Bates is released from the care of the state mental facility after more than two decades of confinement, having been judged restored to sanity and no longer a threat to society. Lila Loomis, whose sister was one of Norman's victims, challenges the court's decision to no avail. She warns his psychiatrist, Dr. Raymond, that he is letting a homicidal maniac back onto the streets and begs him to reconsider. Norman is escorted home and told that a diner job awaits, as his motel is under new management. It is at the diner where he meets Mary, a struggling waitress with boyfriend troubles. He feels for the girl and offers her a place to stay at his motel. Upon meeting Mr. Toomey, the reprehensible new manager that has converted the place into an hourly rental joint, Norman invites Mary to join him at his house instead.
Bates isn't home long before he starts receiving disturbing notes and phone calls that claim to be from his dead mother. Norman struggles with the possibility that he is not completely cured or that she is not really dead. Strange things begin happening around the house, for an unseen intruder is watching Norman and Mary. Before long, people are disappearing and a body is discovered in the local swamp where Bates used to dump his victims. Norman is the obvious suspect and the local sheriff has questions for him. Maybe he isn’t as cured as everyone hopes or is someone else responsible for these increasingly violent acts?
Psycho II is one of those rare films that clicks on just about every level. The effort and care that went into crafting something better than a throwaway sequel are evident in every scene. The idea of expanding upon a Hitchcock masterpiece, as though he left the work incomplete, would intimidate just about anyone in their right mind who wasn't just out to make a quick buck. Thankfully, that isn't the case here. Director Richard Franklin (Road Games) is more than up for the task and really delivers an unexpectedly thrilling picture filled with suspense. Working closely with cinematographer Dean Cundey (Halloween), the two create a gorgeous-looking picture filled with the atmosphere of the classic gothic horror films from decades past. In addition, legendary composer Jerry Goldsmith (Alien) contributes a haunting score that perfectly captures the tone of the picture.
The daunting challenge of continuing this story fell on screenwriter Tom Holland (Fright Night) and he really delivers a thoughtful love story wrapped inside a murder mystery that builds to a highly satisfying conclusion. The biggest accomplishment he makes is turning Bates into a sympathetic character that audiences will root for. The script contains the expected moments of horror but is more interested in developing the humanity of the film's non-traditional protagonist.
Anthony Perkins (ffolkes) reprises his role from the original Hitchcock classic with ease. He totally owns this character and it is fun to watch as Norman tries to blend in with society and earn his second chance at a normal life. It is also heartwrenching to watch him struggle with the fear of slipping back into old habits. Meg Tilly (Body Snatchers) holds her own as Mary, the girl who has caught Norman's attention. She brings an innocence to the character that really complements Perkins' performance and their scenes together are impressive.
Supporting cast members Vera Miles (Psycho) and Dennis Franz (Blow Out) both bring intensity to their respective roles as Lila and Toomey, the people who care for Norman the least. While Robert Loggia (Innocent Blood) is surprisingly restrained as the sincere Dr. Raymond, his character appears fiercely protective of Norman. Hugh Gillin brings a quiet sensibility to the role of small town sheriff and I like that he is willing to give his newest resident the benefit of the doubt despite growing evidence to the contrary.
Psycho II is a well-crafted thriller that holds up under repeat viewing. Richard Franklin displays an unflappable confidence even when standing in the shadow of a master filmmaker like Alfred Hitchcock. The film hits its marks and perfectly balances tension with occasional bits of black comedy that work within the confines of the story. Strong performances, a great script, impressive direction and a great visual style make this one of the most unexpectedly satisfying sequels that truly complements the original.
Video and Audio:
Three decades after its original release Psycho II looks absolutely stunning. The picture is presented in the original aspect ratio, opened up slightly to 1.78:1 and looks better than all previous editions. Colors are bright and rich with natural flesh tones and solid black levels. There are a few brief instances of minor print damage, but still a step up from the earlier DVD releases.
The default DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is surprisingly active. The rear channels come alive and goose the occasional creaking door effect. Directional audio cues are also nicely managed, one nice example is the scene where the hotel clerk is vacuuming. The original mono mix, presented here in a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track, is equally clear and free from distortion. English subtitles are provided.
The main supplement here is a commentary track with writer Tom Holland, moderated by Rob Galluzzo (The Psycho Legacy). The two men are clearly friends and the conversation is laid back but quite thorough. Topics range from the obvious intimidation of writing a sequel of this caliber to working with the cast and the director. There are not a lot of extended pauses in this piece and Galluzzo does a great job pressing Holland for anecdotes.
A secondary series of promotional audio supplements are included. The material was likely intended for radio broadcasts and instead of simply playing the content under a slideshow, the content is included as an alternate track during the main feature.
The original Electronic Press Kit (EPK) is included in its entirety. Designed to be edited into promotional television broadcasts in segments, the material offers a look behind the scenes and features interviews with assorted members of the cast and crew. It is a shame there are no new video interviews with any of the participants from either side of the camera, but the EPK is a nice touch.
The only other special features include the original theatrical trailer and teaser campaign and a gallery of production stills.