[31 Days of Horror Part V: A New Beginning] Day 8 – Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990)

Director: Mick Garris

Cast: Anthony Perkins, Olivia Hussey, Henry Thomas, CCH Pounder

Screenplay: Joseph Stefano

96 mins. Rated R for violence and sensuality.

 

As I’ve stated before, it doesn’t really make sense for the Psycho franchise to have made it to four films, especially considering the long break between the first two installments. But here we are with a fourth and final chapter, interestingly enough called The Beginning.

Fran Ambrose (CCH Pounder, Avatar, TV’s The Shield) runs a successful radio talk show and her topic today is matricide, the murder of a mother by her child. In the middle of an interview, she receives a call from a man who claims to have killed his own mother, a man who claims that before the end of the night, he will be forced to kill again. As the conversation puts the pieces of this man’s life together, the radio team begins to suspect that the caller is Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins, Friendly Persuasion, Edge of Sanity), the murderer of several people over the past few decades. As Norman recounts what led to the murder of his mother Norma (Olivia Hussey, Romeo and Juliet, Social Suicide), Fran and the team are on a race against the clock to convince him not to kill again.

I’ve enjoyed the entire Psycho franchise up to this point. While the original is impossible to match, the sequels have been engaging little thrillers all on their own while adding to this interesting character and mythology. Psycho IV is probably my least favorite, but I still found it to be quite engaging. I find, at times, the recounting of Norman’s past to be both disturbing and unsurprising. It also doesn’t link to any of the other sequels and serves as a direct follow-up to the original in several ways.

Perkins is great as Bates again, and he is met nicely by Pounder as both an opposite and a helper to his sanity. Her arc is quite interesting as she evolves to have some semblance of a heart. The scenes from his youth are presented with Henry Thomas (E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Ouija: Origin of Evil) as Norman. Again, he does well, but the flashbacks didn’t really give us anything we didn’t already assume except for many the quasi-incestuous nature of his relationship with his mother.

Mick Garris (Critters 2, Bag of Bones) handles the material well, and his direction pushes the narrative along without lagging too much, and the screenplay from original Psycho scribe Joseph Stefano (The Ghost of Sierra Cobre, Two Bits) is structure in an interesting way to not hang out too much with the past, but the film only really shines for me with the content in the present day. That’s what was interesting for me.

Psycho IV: The Beginning is still a strong finale for this franchise, leaving things on an interesting albeit odd tone and in a very strange place. It’s a nice swan song of sorts for Anthony Perkins, who was diagnosed with HIV during filming. The role is his, it always has been, and this franchise is what he will always be known for. Thankfully, Psycho IV doesn’t tarnish the popular Hitchcock film and instead reminded me why I love the original so much.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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

For my review of Richard Franklin’s Psycho II, click here.

For my review of Anthony Perkins’s Psycho III, click here.

For my review of Mick Garris’s The Shining, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[31 Days of Horror: The Final Chapter] Day 20 – Psycho III (1986)

Director: Anthony Perkins

Cast: Anthony Perkins, Diana Scarwid, Jeff Fahey

Screenplay: Charles Edward Pogue

93 mins. Rated R.

 

A friend of mine once told me that he believes the Psycho franchise to the most underappreciated franchise in horror. When I pined, he told me that while most people regard the original film as a classic, the sequels are mostly dismissed as they started appearing over two decades after the first film. When I saw Psycho II, I got what he meant. No, it isn’t the first film, but it doesn’t try to be. Today, we’ll take a look at the follow-up, directed by Anthony Perkins (Lucky Stiff) himself.

When Maureen (Diana Scarwid, What Lies Beneath, Another Happy Day), a nun, has a horrible accident, she goes on the run, leaving her old life behind. She finally ends up at the Bates Motel, being run by Norman Bates (Perkins). Norman has a new assistant in Duane (Jeff Fahey, Grindhouse, Atomic Shark) and a whole lot of skeletons in his closet after murdering Emma Spool, the woman claiming to be Norman’s true birth mother.

Psycho III isn’t as clean as its predecessors. There are a lot of moving parts here and they don’t hold up as well as what has come before. There is a subplot with the disappearance of Mrs. Spool and the journalist who suspects Norman. There’s the plot with Maureen and her striking resemblance to Marion Crane. Then there’s Duane, who has a plan of his own. Sadly, the multitude of plot points don’t hit as well as they did in Psycho II.

The film does have its merits, though. There are plenty of callbacks and referential material to firmly tie this film to the rest, and it does build on the story without retread. Psycho III takes its own path without falling back on the same story over and over. Sometimes, the film’s connective tissue with the original film helps, sometimes it does not.

Overall, Psycho III works well enough, though it never reaches the heights that it could or should. First-time director Perkins can’t juggle the pieces as well as should, but fans of the first two will find enough to like in this third installment.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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

For my review of Richard Franklin’s Psycho II, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

Kyle’s Top Ten Worst Films of 2016

 

Yes, we survived 2016. We made it! And as painful as 2016 was, there was a lot of great films released.

There were also a lot of stinkers. Here, today, I’ve compiled my list for the Top Ten Worst Films released in 2016. Keep in mind:

  • This list could and should be longer. There was a lot of crap to wade through in 2016, and…
  • I didn’t see every bad movie in 2016. This is a list of the worst films I saw. I didn’t see Gods of Egypt, so you won’t see it here.

Alright, let’s not wait any longer. Here we go:

 

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  1. Race

Race is a movie that shouldn’t be on this list. But it is. Why? It’s boring, it’s cliché, it’s predictable, and worst of all, it shows signs that it could’ve been terrific. What do I mean? The scenes depicting the actual sport of track and field were great, and they pulled me in. Then, the rest of it pulled me right back out. The performances were disappointing because the script was all over the place, and it just didn’t work.

 

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  1. Zoolander No. 2

Zoolander isn’t a great movie as it is, but it was still leagues ahead of this bloated sluggish sequel which pits Derek Zoolander and Hansel against a strange and sinister conspiracy to kill the most beautiful people. There was one scene that made me chuckle involving Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and the stuff with Kiefer Sutherland and Sting was great, but there are all these moving parts that just stunk, worst of all is a stupid side-plot involving Derek’s son played by Cyrus Arnold. Zoolander No. 2 is a sequel that proves that maybe we should just let things lie and stop requesting sequels to comedies that are past their prime.

 

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  1. Batman: The Killing Joke

How do you mess this one up? To this point? The Killing Joke is a great graphic novel, and the adaptation for it is not so much. First of all, I found the prologue featuring Batgirl to be filler. I agree that in adapting the novel to the screen, you can do extra scenes that pump up the story, but nothing in that first twenty minutes or so really mattered. It was awful. Once the film started, things improved, but not by much as it squandered its production of a poorly paced film that kind of just falls apart. I wanted more from this, and I thought we’d get it. Sadly, The Killing Joke is not what it should be.

 

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  1. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Martin Freeman is great in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. The rest of the movie is sloggish and unwaveringly disappointing. I didn’t really connect to any of the characters, I didn’t care about their journeys. I didn’t really find investment anywhere, and that just ruined any chance of enjoying the film which runs on far too long without finding a purpose for its existence. Extremely disappointing.

 

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  1. The Huntsman: Winter’s War

I didn’t love Snow White and the Huntsman, but I saw potential in it. When I heard a pre/sequel of sorts was being crafted with Frank Darabont of The Shawshank Redemption fame, I was overjoyed and curious. Then, he left the project, and the screenplay was “retouched” and some random director was found to fill the shoes, and the movie…sucked! It was so terrible. I tried several times to force myself into it, but there is nothing of value in this film. It adds nothing to the mythos and instead comes off as terribly assembled. Heck, it wastes Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt, and Charlize Theron. There is nothing of merit here.

 

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  1. Criminal

I should’ve known Criminal was going to be bad. It’s poster and trailers did nothing to excite me. Kevin Costner isn’t really trying anymore.  But there is such an interesting cast put to this film that I gave it a try anyway. That was a poor decision. Criminal is convoluted and contrived, but none of that matters as much as how absolutely boring it is. I couldn’t wait for the runtime to end so I could get up and run from my seat.

 

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  1. Marauders

Marauders, like Criminal, is just flat-out boring. Even Bruce Willis looks bored (granted, he usually does). Marauders plays itself for its twist, and the twist isn’t even good. Beyond Christopher Meloni, who I usually enjoy, the best performance comes from Dave Bautista (no rudeness to Bautista, but he seems the only performer committed to trying here). Marauders had a limited release and for a good reason. It is truly…awful.

 

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  1. The Boss

After Tammy, someone should tell Melissa McCarthy that we’re kind of done now. The Boss, directed by McCarthy’s husband, is boring, bland, stupid, and unlikable. McCarthy again plays the same character we’ve come to know and disdain, but somehow finds a way to make us truly hate her. The Boss is by and far the worst comedy of 2016.

 

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  1. Miracles from Heaven

Don’t tell me that I don’t like religious movies. I don’t like garbage movies. Miracles from Heaven is a garbage movie, pandering to the worst of film. Films can inspire and give hope, but not from excessively depressing plots and horrible writing. Miracles from Heaven is just lucky that it will fade into obscurity and end up the last feature on a 10-movie set you’ll find in the bargain bins of your local Wal-Mart.

 

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  1. I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House

Osgood Perkins, son of Psycho star Anthony Perkins, delivers some dread in I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, but it becomes very apparent within minutes, the film doesn’t have a story or a compelling character to walk us through it. There is nothing truly frightening about this film, and the worst part of it all…it is so unrelentingly boring. I shudder only at the thought of this film being suggested to me on Netflix for the rest of my life. That’s the real horror here.

 

So there you have it. The worst of the worst of 2016. Thank God that’s over with.

Is there something missing? Let me know. What did you think was the worst film of 2016?

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[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 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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