Psycho IV: The Beginning
Reviewed by Mike Brannon
Rating: 8 Beans
ll right, I've referred to it in two of my previous reviews, so why not give you the rundown of why Psycho IV bites.
May I point out, before we begin, that Mr. Hitchcock did not direct a single one of the Psycho sequels (what a fitting name for them). There is a reason: some movies just do not cry out for a sequel. What is it about sequels? It seems that sequels are just for people who can't get enough of the first: the gags and the chemistry between the leads, for instance. But they end up as painfully dumb and threadbare movies, more often than not.
When we milk a series for every drop, where do we go next? Why, we go into the past, of course. This is called a "prequel," also known as "crap on celluloid." Refer to Phantom Menace and Puppet Master III (I have reviewed both pain parades on this site, as well. Wow, what convenience! BNM for all your movie mascochism needs!)
Let us start out on a positive note: this movie isn't nearly as bad as Psycho III. That one, you may painfully recall, tried to fit Norman into the Leatherface-Freddy Krueger-Jason Vorhees caste of monsterous super-villains... directed by Perkins himself! UGH! Down in the cold ground, poor Hitch must be spinning like a top.
Psycho IV is, in a nutshell, trying to explain why Norman went wacko. One of the problems with prequels is that they rob the first movie of its mystique. Psycho wallows in mystique.... a story about a bank robbery that suddenly takes a wicked detour and brings us the mysterious world of Norman Bates and his enigmatic, homicidal "mother." The less explained, the better. It adds to the creepiness.
But Psycho IV simply tries to dissect the first movie. CCH Pounder plays Fran Ambrose, who has a talk show where people talk about Jerry Springer-ish trash like Nazi Lumberjacks... the topic du jour is Matricide. So guess who calls from his halfway house? Yep. The former proprietor of the Bates Motel.
Norman recalls his childhood. In the flashbacks, he is played by Henry Thomas. Poor Henry. After being in one of the most successful Spielburg movies of all time (E.T.), he is past his prime and doing crappy made-for-TV movies. Henry, Mark Hamill and Butch Patrick should all go out and have a beer.
The role of Mother goes to Olivia Hussey, who plays the matriarch as a total slut with incestual overtones. We see graphic depictions of the two murders before Marion Crane which were mentioned at the very end of the first Psycho. It also shows Norman murdering his mother, also mentioned in the first film. This movie, like all prequels, simply cannot stand without the first movie.
Well, Norman reveals he is going to kill his wife, a psychiatrist, for getting pregnant. He tells her to meet him at the old Bates Mansion. The wife, who is smart enough to be a psychiatrist, is dumb enough to honor such a ambiguously dangerous request without hesitation. Of course, Norman plans to kill her, but changes his mind at the last second and burns down the house instead. Wow. What storytelling. That outcome was about as hard to predict as your typical "Three Stooges" short.
What is the rancid icing on this stale cake is the stupid, awkward dialogue lifts from the original Psycho. Young Norman says "Not inordinately" (quoting Marion) for no good reason, and later Old Norman refers to his "trusty umbrella" (quoting himself from the first one). Ye GODS! I mean, quoting the original is fine, as long as it fits in the logic of the situation! Just throwing in the quote to stand on its own is incompetent. And dumb.
This movie, which was (thankfully) the last Psycho sequel cheapened the series even further. It is a big shame, because Psycho was a brilliant suspense movie. Skip Psycho IV... if you have already seen it, just do what I do for 2001: A Space Odyssey. Pop in the classic original and pretend, for a golden moment, the crappy sequel just doesn't exist.
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