Going Psycho - Part II
Review By: Gringo

If you've read part one of this Psycho-fest, you'll know that the series managed to quickly go downhill with movie number three. What you don't know is that the face-shoveling and insane plot holes of the third movie doesn't even come close to what would follow. In terms of mind-numbing stupidity, awful acting and an overall miserable viewing experience, the last three movies (one of which was a made-for-television movie) rank quite highly. If you haven't read part one, then consider yourself lucky and run, run as fast as your fingers can click your mouse to get away from here! For the brave ones of you out there, you're about to embark on a journey that takes in pointless arson, unbelievable radio shows and a fair amount of Bud Cort. What an adventure! I'm just glad there aren't many movie series (with the exception of Police Academy) that have spawned quite so many sequels. I'm starting to have worrying ideas of a Police Academy crossover (Psycho Academy, anyone?) which would no doubt rank amongst the dizzy quality heights of Ninja Academy, so I'll just get on with the review.

Psycho IV: The Beginning. Four movies in and they decide to begin the series over again. Sense! This movie tried to establish the origins of the loony craze-beast disorder that drove Norman Bates to dress up as is aged mother and go around dispatching people with various utensils. What was the reason? If this movie is anything to by, a freaky incest-type scenario, including a weird scene where Norman's mother wrestles her son on the bedroom floor. Quite. This movie was a strange, stupid waste of however many minutes it lasted and I am the worse for having watched it. The plot revolved around Norman phoning in to a radio talk show where the subject of the night was serial killers. Right. I'm sure a convicted mental patient and serial killer would just phone up a radio show on a whim. The plot twists and turns in very lame ways, with Norman telling the radio host all about his bizarre youth. This leads to several flashbacks that just prolong the agony before, for no real reason, Norman ends the movie by driving up to the Bates Mansion and setting it on fire. If he'd had a bit more sense and set fire to the script before the cameras rolled, then this mess wouldn't exist today.

The kid from E.T. (the one who played Eliot) stars as the young Norman in this movie, and what a career mistake it was. There's very little loveable alien content in this Psycho IV! Oddly, for a movie subtitled The Beginning, we learn very little about the Bates' history. Facts learnt are that (i) Norman wanted to get it on with his mother, (ii) Norman is strange and (iii) Norman dresses up as an old woman and attacks people. Such a marvelous explanation, Universal Studios! Speaking of those studios, I remember back in the 80's I paid a visit (all on my own! So special! Well, no, I wasn't alone) to their Florida theme park. I saw the house from the movie but more importantly - and really rather unrelated - was the Murder, She Wrote Soundstage attraction! This was essentially a crappy five-minute clip of Angela Lansbury in her sleuthing glory, with members of the audience called up on stage to add sound effects to the show. It sticks in my mind because when the tour guide asked Jimmy Yokel of Dumbsville, TX to make a 'squeak' and a 'creak' for a door and floorboard respectively, he looked at the guide, then at the audience, and with a timid voice said the words "Squeak...creak". I don't know what that has to do with Psycho IV, but the laughter that went round the soundstage was enough to distract me thinking about the fourth installment in the Bates saga. In other words, it's not a good movie.

Bates Motel. I recommend drinking heavily before, during and after watching this made-for-television movie. I've been drunk a thousand times before, but not a single time was enough to cope with the horror than unfolded in front of my eyes. These should be the best days of my life, but instead I was trapped watching this motion picture monstrosity, unable to move for fear that the characters might jump out of the television and pull me in to their eccentric, poorly acted and badly scripted little world. It's an atrocious movie. Unfortunately, I still have a copy of it on video (the format of the future! Yes, the future!). I don't know to do with it. If you want it, you can have it (woo-ooh-ooh), but otherwise I'm planning to burn it in some kind of bizarre bad movie ritual. I hate this movie more than I hate my computers mouse right now; and the damn thing keeps getting cluttered up with muck. Where the hell the muck comes from, I have no idea. It's not like my desk is in the middle of a trash can or something (yes), so I can't understand why it gets so dirty.

But you care so very little about my boring computer-related annoyances. Bates Motel was apparently an attempt to start a television show set at the murder mansion. Any sane person can tell that's a bad idea already. It's hardly prime-time material, is it? Thankfully, the pilot proved so incredibly atrocious that any hope of a series died the minute the show aired. The plot was simple and stupid at the same time. Bud Cort turned up at the motel, having been left it in Norman Bates' will. As Leonard Maltin wrote in one of his short but strangely helpful two-sentence reviews, even Anthony Perkins boycotted this made-for-television movie. If that doesn't tell you all that you need to know about this horrible, miserable excuse of an addition to the Psycho series, then you deserve to watch it. Then you'll learn. The show couldn't even attract Perkins to take part, so they killed Norman's character - surely the backbone to the series - off. He was replaced by a strange man who just wanted to make the motel profitable again. The show then revolved around a ridiculous ghost story. Such fun! It closed with Cort's character saying the motel's "always open". My advice; don't ever go.

Psycho (1998). They remade it? Why? Last but almost least is the Gus Van Sant remake of Hitchcock's original. For no apparent reason, the director of Good Will Hunting thought it would be a good idea to do a frame-for-frame remake of Psycho, changing nothing save for the insertion of a few images of a cow's face. Vince Vaughn played Norman Bates whilst first rate irritant Anne Heche played Marion Crane. She spends the entire movie walking around with a smug look on her face that is completely inappropriate considering the monotone performance she gives off. Well, she's on the screen up until the whole getting murdered in the shower point. A character being stabbed to death tends to reduce their screen time quite dramatically. Otherwise they'd have called it Dead Woman Gets A Lot Of Screen Time, or some similar winning movie title. It'd be a better idea than remaking a classic movie, using identical dialogue and camera shots, but with the difference of being in colour and containing a cast of actors who should have known better. As for Gus Van Sant, I really hope this is the last remake of any kind that he considers producing.

This remake is a pointless exercise in pretension (I know that's pretty rich coming from this site), with nonsensical imagery of cows and the like merged in to the so-called action. Despite the script and almost all the shots being the same, this movie manages to be far worse than the original. The only redeeming feature is William H. Macy playing the role of the detective, Arbogast. Other than that, it's an exercise in mediocrity, with no-one else really knowing how to play their roles. It's less of a horror movie than a horrible mess (oh, Gringo, you're so witty!) that never needed to be produced. On a ratings scale of bread knives wielded by crazy old murderous women, this would be one of the bluntest in the drawer, slighter sharper than Bates Motel but less functional than Psycho III, and - embarrassingly for this movie - far worse than Psycho II. I'm going to stop with the knife metaphors now because I think I've exhausted than line of writing. To sum up nice and quickly: watch the first Psycho and enjoy it greatly. Maybe even watch the first sequel. But as for the rest, keep far away. Don't say I didn't warn you.


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