For the last four years, Alamo Drafthouse programmer Zack Carlson has hosted a late-night horror movie celebration called Terror Tuesday and if you are a lover of horror, both esoterically brilliantly and obscurely awful, this night was invented just for you. The Terror Tuesday Report will dissect the movie shown as well as provide a barometer for the audience's reaction; as many of these films demand to be seen with an audience, this proves a vital component to the evening.
This week's film: Psycho II, directed by Richard Franklin, 1983
There was apparently an enormous outcry from fans when this movie was released whose principal beef seemed predicated not only on the quality of the film itself, but that anyone would have the audacity to make a sequel to Psycho. I call shenanigans, and those shenanigans are coming from a rabid Psycho fan which should lend all the more weight to said shenanigans. Feel like pistol-whipping anyone yet? I don't think making a sequel to Psycho is inherently heretical and I think the fact that it took 23 years for that sequel to come about offers a unique perspective change that grants a variety to the franchise unseen in others. Also, I genuinely like Psycho II despite its flaws.
Psycho II was directed by Richard Franklin. If you are a regular reader of Horror Squad, and of me I suppose, then you know I cannot shut up about Mark Hartley's 2008 doco Not Quite Hollywood. In it, in addition to cataloging the entire glorious history of Australia's exploitation cinema, Not Quite Hollywood introduced me to Richard Franklin as someone who idolized Hitchcock to the point of modeling his whole career to serve as one giant homage to the man. He went so far as to take Rear Window, put it on sixteen wheels, and call it Road Games; a fantastic film in its own right. So his being given the chance to direct a sequel to Psycho makes the film quite the passion project. For my money, Franklin knocks it out of the park by not only embracing the passage of time since the original film, but also the changes in horror filmmaking as well.
Look, no one is going to be able to perfectly duplicate the brilliance of Hitchcock's Psycho, Gus Van Sant proved that when he couldn't even make a shot-for-shot remake worth watching, so trying to capture that exact style and feel is an effort in futility. What Franklin manages to do is take the character of Norman Bates and drop him into a quintessential 80's slasher flick. It's bloody, it's cheesy at points, and the entire film feels adorned in grime. That's not to say that Psycho II is run-of-the-mill, far from it. In fact, Franklin is able to build on the Bates cannon and solidifies his legend status all while putting together a story full of intrigue and genuine surprises. Psycho II also uses exact shots from the original film but in far more subtle fashion than did Van Sant which demonstrates the amount of respect Franklin has for the source.
Anthony Perkins is fantastic. His man-boy Norman Bates never ceases to be unsettling and his performance hasn't lost an iota of power in the two decades since he last wore that sweater. Perkins manages to communicate perfectly a Norman Bates who had been locked away for over twenty years and suddenly dropped into the1980's. His struggle throughout the film with his own potentially waning sanity is what makes this film so good. I also love the way he interacts with his co-star Meg Tilly; in fact the entire plot revolving around Tilly's character and her mother is inspired.
The ending of Psycho II is not to be missed. Not that you would watch this whole film and then suddenly turn it off in the last five minutes, but still. The ending is the only part of the film that feels frustratingly forced...that is, it feels that way as its first unfolding. But by the time you get to the payoff, you realize that there is nothing unfounded about it all and it gift-wraps and finale that adds a new layer to the mystery of the film. I absolutely love the way Psycho II wraps and how it sets up, intentionally or otherwise, the next two films.
I have a special connection with Psycho II that offers uncomfortable insight into my madness. When I was young, there were two horror films I could bring myself to watch: Halloween and Psycho. When I hit middle school, I ran through every Halloween sequel I could get my hands on. Then I started watching anything Hitchcock I could get my hands on due to my infatuation with Psycho. Then I heard that Psycho had its own host of sequels and I could not get to my videostore fast enough. I tore through the franchise in one day. From there, I discovered the Friday the 13ths and the rest is horror geek history. Psycho II is not the fist horror film I ever watched, but it was there at the genesis and served as part of the catalyst for my obsession. Seeing a beautiful, brand new 35mm print of this film was of the more fulfilling moments of my fandom.
i actually remember seeing Richard Franklin's Road Games at Terror Tuesday last year and the reaction was interesting to say the least. It was one of those moments where the film was too good for the audience to handle. Many of them clearly showed up to see a trashy 80's horror movie and instead Franklin delivered a legitimately solid film. The reaction to Psycho II was somewhat similar but there were a few moments of trashiness or terrible line reads to provide guffaw fodder and keep the crowd interested. I think the best moment like this, as Zack Carlson warned, has to be Perkin's delivery of the word "cutlery."