[31 Days of Horror 3] Psycho II (1983)

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Director: Richard Franklin

Cast: Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, Meg Tilly, Robert Loggia

Screenplay: Tom Holland

113 mins. Rated R.

 

Who would ever believe that a sequel to Psycho, twenty years later, would actually be successful? Psycho II was just that, earning roughly $34 million at the box office. It spawned two further sequels and a slew of other media properties. Crazy. Today, after years of avoiding it, I looked at Psycho II.

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Twenty-two years after the unspeakable crimes he committed, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins, The Trial, Crimes of Passion) has been released from the mental institution against the wishes of Lila Loomis (Vera Miles, The Searchers, The Initiation), sister of his victim Marion Crane, who amassed 743 signatures to keep him locked up. Once Norman gets comfortable, he takes on a job at a nearby diner where he meets Mary Samuels (Meg Tilly, The Big Chill, Body Snatchers), a nice young woman who quickly becomes friends with Norman. But as things in Norman’s life start to look better, trouble starts, and bodies pile up, and all eyes are on Norman. Is he responsible? Or is something far more sinister happening?

This sequel appears in many ways to be heading down the same path as the original Alfred Hitchcock classic, but then director Richard Franklin (Road Games, Cloak & Dagger) and screenwriter Tom Holland (Child’s Play, Thinner) throw in some genuinely intriguing twists and turns that kept me guessing the entire runtime. Not every plot point plays out the way it should, but overall, Psycho II does offers some shocks and surprises as a worthwhile sequel.

The film is further elevated by standout performances from Vera Miles’ return as Lila Loomis and franchise newcomer Robert Loggia (Scarface, Independence Day) as Norman’s doctor Bill Raymond, who does his best to transition Norman to the real world, however difficult the task becomes.

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Now, I felt that the last half of the film gets a little too convoluted in trying to play mind games with the audience, and I’m still not sure I walked away with all the answers, but maybe that’s the idea. It just didn’t work as well as it could have. Psycho II is still the kind of sequel that further develops its characters and provides an interesting if somewhat similar and easy plot. I actually enjoyed it. There you have it.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, click here.

31 Days of Horror: Day 28 – Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2008)

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Director: James Nguyen

Cast: Alan Bagh, Whitney Moore, Janae Caster, Colton Osborne, Adam Sessa

Screenplay: James Nguyen

105 mins. Not Rated.

 

Sometimes, on very rare occasions, a movie comes along that it so good that it changes the way you look at every other movie you will ever see; it becomes a comparison to everything that came before and everything that will come after. On the flipside of that coin is Birdemic: Shock and Terror, a movie that is so bad that, for the rest of your life, any film you ever see will be followed by a comparison as to how bad it really is under Birdemic’s light.

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Rod (Alan Bagh) is a sales man for a very stupid company that isn’t even entirely described but he just made them a million dollars. Nathalie (Whitney Moore, A Horrible Way to Die, The Theater Bizarre) is a model-in-training who has just been given a chance to work for Victoria’s Secret. The two have a chance encounter that drives them together. Unfortunately, a bunch of freaking birds start attacking Half Moon Bay, and Rod and Nathalie are called upon to save the day…or whatever.

Writer/director James Nguyen (Julie and Jack, Replica) is a terrible filmmaker who got the idea for Birdemic from watching the movies The Birds (he is a big fan of Alfred Hitchcock) and An Inconvenient Truth (he must also be a big fan of Al Gore) and thought to himself, “Huh. I could put these things together and it will be brilliant.” His version of brilliant is different than ours. He has a pointless movie bogged down by an awful screenplay and a hand with being completely oblivious to editing software. His cinematography makes found footage look Oscar-worthy. His lighting is something that you might get from a couple of flashlights found at a dollar store. His music…well, I can say that you need to get this soundtrack from itunes (it only costs about two bucks). His special effects…wait, they need their own section…

His visual effects are GIFs. Literally, the birds are on the screen cawing and flapping but not actually moving. They make plane sounds and explode on impact. They spit acid. They emit smoke like a helicopter going down. They turn impossibly. They…are just terrible and wonderful and…actually quite indescribable. You just need to see them.

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This movie is garbage. Nguyen actually put Ms. Tippi Hedren (of The Birds) in the credits and the video case when she had actually appeared on a television set featuring scenes from Nguyen’s other film Julie and Jack. He made up names or put friends’ names into the credits to make the film look more impressive than it actually is. Yeah, I’m serious here. A terrible movie.

 

1.5/5

Wait, I’m not done here. This movie is terrible, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t see it. I’ve seen it several times now and it is so bad that it is worth watching at underground midnight showings in old dusty theaters with callbacks and cheers and food and booze and fun. This movie is so terrible that it is actually a lot of fun to watch it in groups. Seriously. Watch it (it is worth the extra .5 points), but perhaps get a few beers first. For safety.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

31 Days of Horror: Day 27 – Psycho (1960)

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Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Cast: Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Janet Leigh

Screenplay: Joseph Stefano

109 mins. Not Rated.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Janet Leigh)
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Director
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Cinematography, Black-and-White
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Art Direction-Set Direction, Black-and-White

 

Few films could break new ground in film-making quite like Alfred Hitchcock (Vertigo, Rear Window) did with Psycho, an adaptation of the novel by Robert Bloch. In it, the world witnessed the first flushing toilet in motion picture history. Funny now, but back then screenwriter Joseph Stefano (Two Bits, Blackout) was told that the toilet had to be integral to the film, so he made it just that.

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Perhaps more important than the toilet is the entirety of Psycho, an absolutely shocking and unnerving masterpiece from Hitchcock, made on a minute budget with an all television crew to cut costs, and released as one of the best horror films on modern record.

It tells the story of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh, Touch of Evil, The Manchurian Candidate) who steals $40,000 from her boss in order to live the life she deserves with the man she deserves, Sam Loomis (John Gavin, Spartacus, Imitation of Life). Along the getaway, she stays for the night at the Bates Motel, run by the shy Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins, The Trial, The Black Hole) and his mother. When Marion goes missing, her sister Lila (Vera Miles, The Searchers, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance) and Sam go looking for her. The plot is both simple and yet still unbelievably watchable.

Janet Leigh is amazing here, creating a character who does bad things and is still someone I connected to emotionally. I think practically everyone has had thoughts of stealing enough money to live luxuriously and getting away with it. Her chemistry with Perkins as Norman Bates (or as Hitchcock called him, Master Bates) is very strong and grounded as well. I felt some sensual connection these two characters build, which ultimately leads to chaotic conclusions.

Hitchcock’s use of the camera is what causes so much jitter. There is a scene where the camera focuses entirely on Bates’ jaw and throat as he is questioned by a private detective about Marion’s disappearance. It just focuses on the way he chews his food. The famous shower scene as well is so perfectly executed that nudity is kept to a bare minimum while somewhere over 70 shots are all spliced into a minute of film that stays with the viewer through the rest of the film.

Bernard Herrmann’s musical score is another great element that has surprisingly stayed effective even 54 years later. It was so good that Hitchcock included it in scenes he originally wanted completely silent and later mentioned in an interview of its importance in the film over just about everything else.

The set design is well worth its Oscar nomination. Each environment is so vividly realized that I can actually recall color in them even though the film is black and white. I can picture them perfectly while not distracting me from the story.

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This movie is perfect. I can completely see why Alfred Hitchcock went insane over his requiring of theaters to not allow people in after the film had started. I can’t believe I waited so long to view this picture. Watch this movie!

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

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For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

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