[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: Day 27 – Psycho (1960)

psycho1960a

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

 

psycho1960c

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

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