Going Psycho - Part I
Review By: Gringo

For no real reason, I'm going to write something about every damn Psycho movie - and even the really quite bad television movie Bates Motel. I'd like to say there was some point behind this review, but to be honest there isn't. I've seen the first movie in the series recently, but all the others I'm going on memories of seeing them two, three or four years ago (to be exact! Such a head for figures!). Because there are five Psycho movies (including the atrocious remake by Gus Van Sant in 1998) and one television movie, I've had to split this review into two parts. Chop, chop! Part one, which you're reading now, you lucky, lucky person, deals with the first three movies and - well - not a great deal else. Celebration! Still, it's a great way to fill space...I mean, write some more quality, in-depth reviews of movies. Part two deals with the last two Anthony Perkins-starring sequels, as well as the real excrement of the series; the modern remake and the television movie. But that's irrelevant, because this is part one, so on with the Norman Bates-related fun!

Psycho. The original and, to no doubt steal a cliché, the best. The story seems to involve Marion Crane (not related to Frasier. Ho ho!), a miserable-looking woman who steals a lot of money and makes a run for the next city down the road. Rio would have been a safer bet in my opinion, but there's arguing with some people. Besides, her fiancÚ was in the next city and it would have been a much shorter journey to make for some good lovin' than travelling all the way to Rio. Anyway, on route to her potential passion, Marion stops overnight at the Bates Motel. An overnight stay that lasts...forever! Because a few hours after meeting creepy Norman, the owner of the motel with a Freudian-field-day of an obsession about his mother, Marion is stabbed - to death! - whilst having a shower. The rest of the movie involves people trying to find out what happened to her, or just more murdering. Bates Motel is a happy establishment for all the family.

However, I can't really say anything bad about this movie. That's because I've stopped typing. Oh, Gringo, you're such a joker! If you had stopped typing then how can you explain these words? Simple! I won't! I'll just gloss over my poor attempt at a joke and admit that I'm just filling this paragraph up with meaningless words to loosely cover up the fact I don't have anything too bad to say about the original Psycho. Fantastic direction, good acting, men dressing up as women, this movie has it all. Although I did hear a story (thank you, Papa Story Man) that the 'blood' prop used in the movie was actually chocolate syrup, because red dye and the like wouldn't show up very well in black and white. I don't care if that's true or not, because either way I'll still have the childish image in my mind of the following scene. Shooting will have finished, most people having left the set. Hitchcock was probably in the room where they kept the syrup. I bet he looked around quickly a few times before leaping on the stock, guzzling it all and no doubt saying something like "mmm...blarg! Chocolate!" as he did. Allegedly.

Psycho II. Anyway, that brings us - somehow - onto the subject of the first sequel. Despite probably having the same budget as the original movie - but twenty years later (if you don't get that joke, read all about inflation, Joseph Johnson!) - it was actually okay. It wasn't a good movie or anything, but it was far better than the average television movie-style dross that passes for a cinematic release. I'm not mentioning any names, but most of the mystery movies involve actors with names like Trent. If you're reading this and your name is Trent - and crucially, if you're bigger and stronger than me (which won't be hard) - then I didn't mean to make fun of your name. Please accept my apologies and deliver your planned face beating to someone else. I could come up with far more names to suggest in that case. But I'll save that story for another time. Slowly getting back to the point, Psycho II was okay, but there were some strange plot points - about three different old women turned up with the sole aim of proving they were Norman's real mother.

Now it may just be me, but I don't think that owning up to being the person who gave birth to a transvestite serial killer is the wisest move to make. But these old women were intent on proving their status. Two of them were liars, and swiftly dispatched with. In a highly amusing scene, once Norman's real mother has been revealed, he gets the biggest shovel I have ever seen - and beats her head with it! The doddery old lady was quite happily sipping a cup of tea when the motel-owning freak took a shovel to her face, all so he could store her in the cellar. That's the most insane part of a film that is shaky in many places - earthquake! - but on the whole isn't too bad an addition to the series, even if a franchise of Psycho films wasn't the best of ideas. I've left it a bit late to say, but the plot of this movie is that twenty-two years after being committed to a mental hospital, Norman has been released. Marion's sister from the original movie isn't happy, and thus begins ninety minutes or so of arguments, shovels being used and some gratuitous breast shots. The 1980's had made their first mark on one of Hitchcock's best movies.

Psycho III. I don't know quite what went wrong with the series around the time the third movie was released. The plot loosely revolves around a nun who tries to kill herself, before being picked up on the streets by a guitar-playing yokel. They both end up at Bates Motel, where they get jobs working for Norman and, sure enough, some killings soon ensue. That's more or less it. The movie has no real memorable scenes and even more forgettable dialogue. I think the real problem with this movie is that it tries to hard to make fun of itself. Occasionally, self-parody can work well with horror movies, otherwise Scream and its millions of clones would never have seen the light of day. However, the third installment in the Psycho series (which was never exactly crying out for sequels in the first place) goes over the top. Anthony Perkins directed it and to be honest he does an acceptable job. But he's stuck with a script that is trying to poke fun at the first two movies - but failing miserably.

However, there is one particular highlight. This movie has perhaps the best murder scene in the entire series when a local yokel uses a guitar to repeatedly beat someone's face. It doesn't top the shovel beating, which is administered at the end of Psycho II, and for that reason alone is the poorer sequel. Some people might say that movies get progressively worse the further into the series you go - for example The Godfather Part III was the weakest of the gangster trilogy. The same people probably think that all the ideas and life has been dragged out of a series after two movies, making the third inevitably bad. However, I say those people are fools. Fools, I tell you! I can think of plenty of second sequels, which are infinitely better than the original follow-up to a movie. Jurassic Park III was streets ahead (and a few avenues - sorry, that was the worst joke ever) of The Lost World, and Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade beats The Temple Of Doom hands-down. What went wrong with Psycho III, and made it break this potential trend, I can't exactly pinpoint. But I think a duff script and a foolish plot may have helped.

CLICK FOR PART TWO - SILLY REMAKES, INSANITY AND BUD CORT!


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