31 Days of Halloween — Day 30: Psycho II (1983) — by Dr. Shock

Psycho II 1983

Editor’s note: Dave “Dr. Shock” Becker is a host on Horror Movie Podcast and the Land of the Creeps horror podcast. He is also the mastermind behind DVDInfatuation.com, a movie review blog where he is watching and posting one review every day until he reaches at least 2,500 movie reviews. Follow Doc on Twitter: @DVDinfatuation.


“Psycho II was one of those movies I used to watch every time it played on cable TV (the month it premiered, I’m betting I saw it six times all the way through, and at least that many more in bits and pieces). Being a Hitchcock fan from an early age, I had already seen Psycho when this 1983 sequel was released, but for a while there, I was a lot more familiar with Psycho II than I was the classic original.

After two decades in a mental institution, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) is declared mentally sane by the courts, and despite the protests of Lila Loomis (Vera Miles), sister of Norman’s last victim, Marion Crane, he’s released back into the world.

To confront his demons, Norman returns to the scene of his crimes, namely his creepy house on the hill (where he once kept his mummified mother’s remains) as well as the tiny, out-of-the-way motel he used to run, which, to his horror, has been turned into a sex-and-drugs safe haven by its current manager, Warren Toomey (Dennis Franz).

To get his life in order, Norman takes a job in the kitchen at a local diner, where he meets Mary Samuels (Meg Tilly), a waitress whose boyfriend just kicked her out of his apartment. Seeing as she has nowhere else to stay, Norman invites her back to his house, an invitation she reluctantly accepts (she knows Norman had been locked away, but doesn’t know why). At first, Norman is happy to have a little company, but his joy soon gives way to fear and confusion when he starts receiving hand-written messages and cryptic phone calls from someone claiming to be his deceased mother.

His psychiatrist, Bill Raymond (Robert Loggia), tells Norman that it’s the work of a sick prankster trying to drive him crazy again. Then, people start disappearing, and all at once, Norman’s mind begins to warp. Is someone playing a cruel joke on him, or has Norman Bates returned to his murderous ways?

Released 23 years after Hitchcock’s Psycho, Psycho II is much more brutal than the original (the kills are often graphic, and there’s plenty of blood). But what makes this film such a worthy follow-up, apart from its intriguing story (the screenplay was penned by Tom Holland, who in later years would direct Fright Night and Child’s Play), is how easily Anthony Perkins slips back into the role of Norman.

While more down-to-earth than he was in Psycho, Norman is still awkward around women (he babbles on incessantly while talking to Mary), and, when he thinks mother has returned, he begins to slip into his “old” ways (some of the film’s eeriest moments involve Norman flashing back to his violent past).

A seemingly kind-hearted character through most of Psycho, Norman Bates is even more sympathetic in Psycho II, and we can’t help but wish that everyone would leave him alone so he can get on with his life. There are other strong performances as well, including Dennis Franz as the slimy motel manager and Robert Loggia as the psychiatrist who’s taken a special interest in Norman, yet the ultimate fate of Psycho II rested on the shoulders of Anthony Perkins, and the seasoned actor showed time and again that he was up to the challenge.

Making a sequel to a classic film is never easy, but thanks to its engaging mystery and a solid performance by its lead actor (not to mention one hell of a surprise ending), Psycho II took the story of Norman Bates to its next logical step, and remains, to this day, one of the cinema’s most underrated horror sequels.”

—Dr. Shock


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6 thoughts on “31 Days of Halloween — Day 30: Psycho II (1983) — by Dr. Shock

  1. 31 Days of Halloween day 29

    68. Among the Living (**) – Why do I have such a hard time believing that french people can be tough? This is from the director of Martyrs but it’s a very forgettable entry into the new french horror genre. Plus you see the killers dick.
    69. Deathgasm (****) – Metalheads vs Deadites. For fans of both plus Todd and the Book and people who love that kiwi accent. There’s one death that made me laugh really hard.

  2. I would argue this is the best horror sequel of the 80’s. I find it odd when 80’s slashers are talked about this film rarely gets brought up. Maybe because of it’s lack of teens (except for one of the least interesting scenes in the film).

    Regardless, if any horror fan out there has put this one off, this should jump to the top of your must see list.

    • Day 30: The Devil’s Rejects
      I feel so accomplished, this has been on my list forever. I was actually rooting for the Devil’s rejects to get away

  3. A movie reviewed due to Wolfman Josh mentioning it in like…every other podcast.

    (May contain minor spoilers)

    Day 30 – The Lost Boys (1987)

    Vampires have been in movies since nearly the beginning. Whether it was Max Schreck, Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee, you had all of these great vampires that were able to bring the horror to this sub-genre. Where The Lost Boys’ legacy is at is that it’s the first well known vampire film that shows how cool vampires could be. This isn’t your vampire from another century or your typical vampire, but in normal times. The main vampires in this film brought this creature to modern times and made viewers envious that they couldn’t life that sort of lifestyle. Without The Lost Boys, would we even have popular vampire movies and shows like Buffy, The Vampire Slayer or Twilight? Hate Twilight all you want, but it did make the vampire lifestyle seem cool for teenage girls. The Lost Boys does the same thing, only for a far greater amount of demographics.

    A big part of the cool factor had to do with the look of the vampires. While the punk look may look dated in 2015, it comes across as pretty relevant for that time period and I wouldn’t say it seems uncool today, unlike if this came out in the 70’s and the vampires were running around with afros and bellbottoms. The soundtrack also did a fantastic job at creating this cool modern feel to a vampire flick. With such tracks as “People Are Strange”, “Walk This Way” and the main theme of “Cry Little Sister”, it’s a soundtrack deserving of being purchased.

    I got the impression that the film can be compared to a couple of different things. With a title of The Lost Boys, it’s easy to draw comparisons to Peter Pan. The most natural comparison is David to Peter Pan with his three vampire buddies representing the random Lost Boys. David’s job is to keep bringing in new Lost Boys and David certainly does that by using Star to sucker Michael into joining the group. The name of their dog, Nanook, isn’t even all that different from the dog in Peter Pan – Nana. The other comparison or what this film could really represent is the rampant drug use that was going on at the time. David and company certainly came across as if they could be abusing some drugs had this not been a vampire film. It also plays to the idea that drug use can cause parents to lose their children as they live on the streets.

    There’s a ton of comedy in The Lost Boys, but it never comes across as a horror/comedy. The vampires are scary and they never get involved in the actual comedy. Instead, it’s up to the regular humans to provide said comedy. The ultra memorable Frog Brothers offer a good deal of the laughs. For any horror fan, they’re identifiable due to taking their love vampires a little too seriously, particularly before we know that vampires are actually on the loose in Santa Carla. The grandfather is probably the most hilarious character in the movie. Half the time it just seems as if he’s a nut job, but by the end of the movie, you get the feeling he’s the most knowledgeable person of all.

    While trying to come up with things I didn’t like about The Lost Boys, I was having a difficult time. Everyone is really likable. It has laughs. Some scares. It feels far more modern than most vampire movies up to this point. At an hour and thirty-seven minutes, it all goes by fairly quickly. The only thing I can think of is that I would have liked to have a better idea of everyone’s background. However, that’s not a fair criticism because this is a movie based on Michael’s experiences with becoming a vampire, no one elses. The gore was pretty minimal though. For a vampire movie, you don’t see much blood at all. That’s a bit of a bummer particularly when that means some of the deaths were off screen. This was 1987 though and the MPAA was coming down hard on horror. There is some confusion regarding the end and how David and company were able to get inside of Michael’s house. There’s various explanations that have been offered by fans. Maybe Max’s invitations extends to his lost boys? Was the chimney a way to get around the invitation? Perhaps the need of being invited only affects what happens when you’re inside of the house. As in, you’re able to enter any house you want, but if you don’t get invited, you don’t show a reflection in the mirror. So while there are possible explanations, we’re never actually told for why it worked in this movie. At this point though, I’m stretching to come up with issues with the film.

    Overall, The Lost Boys is a highly influential entry in the vampire sub-genre. Just as Lugosi’s Dracula caused people to look at vampires in a different way, as did The Lost Boys. The clothing and style may not hold up, but the film is just as entertaining in 2015 as it was when it first came out. I’m not sure where I’d rank it amongst the best of the 80’s horror, but it certainly does deserve to be involved in the discussion. Had it been released the following year, it likely would have been the best horror of the year. However, being released in ‘87 along with Evil Dead 2, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3, Hellraiser, The Monster Squad, The Stepfather, or even Argento’s Opera, makes it far more difficult to decide on a best horror of the year. If you haven’t seen The Lost Boys, do go out of your way to check it out though.

    I’d give it a 8.5.

    • No criticisms … 8.5? Who are you … Station?!

      Just kidding. Loved the review, Sal.

      I know this has come up before somewhere, but just to confirm, was this your first time seeing the movie?

      I’m in my phone and I want to review this on the show, so I can’t go into detail at the moment, but I just love this movie. So nostalgiac for me and totally holds up. I even like the fashion.

      • I was debating whether or not to give it a higher rating. It’s not one of my all time favorites, but I have always enjoyed it. I kinda hate the 1-10 scale for the rating because it gets so tough.

        My real criticms didn’t have anything to do with the actual movie, but rather the DVD. I’ve owned the original 1998 DVD (With that stupid cardbox case with the snap closure) for years. On my new TV, the video quality looked like garbage. I’m halfway tempted to spend a few bucks to buy the Blu-Ray especially since the specials on this DVD is the trailer and a bunch of text only extras. DVD extras really sucked in the late 90’s.

        It was not my first time seeing it (Maybe 2nd time?), but it had been close to fifteen years since I had last seen it. So my memory of it was really fuzzy. For example, I had completely forgot who was revealed to be the head vampire.

        I didn’t get around to catching it for October, but the other past movie review you’ve made me want to watch is Torso.

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