Picks and Pans Review: Psycho Ii

updated 06/20/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/20/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

The opening of this sequel to Alfred Hitchcock's classic 1960 shocker is a pip—brilliantly shot and absolutely terrifying. No wonder. It is, in fact, footage from the original Psycho, in which Anthony Perkins, as Norman Bates, dresses up as his mother and stabs Janet Leigh in the shower. Psycho II director Richard Franklin, an Australian whose dubious credits include the murky thrillers Patrick and Road Games, is betting his work can stand up in comparison. He loses. Though the film (in color instead of the original's black and white) captures much of the Psycho look, it lacks completely Hitchcock's mastery at suspense buildup and black humor. Tom (The Beast Within) Holland's script picks up the original story 22 years later. Norman is released from a mental institution and goes back to run the Bates Motel, now a rundown hot-bed establishment. While working as a part-time cook's helper at a local hashhouse, Norman meets a pretty waitress, Meg (Tex) Tilly, and invites her to use the spare room at the old Bates house. Before long Tilly gets the urge to shower and, well, it would be dirty pool to give away more, except to say that the ensuing murders are more Friday the 13th sledgehammer than Psycho. It's nice to have Perkins back as Norman, even if he indulges in a bit too much eye-rolling. Back from the original, too, are Vera Miles, who has aged gracefully, and the late Mrs. Bates, who hasn't. The authorities exhume her because Norman feels that knowing she is dead "would be a great load off my mind." Psycho II may succeed intermittently as spoof, but only Hitchcock buffs will experience true horror at this unfortunate return to the scene of the crime. (R)

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