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.
-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.
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