Opening with the Hitchcock film’s most famous scene: Marion Crane’s shower and murder, serves several functions for Psycho II: it gives a pre-video proliferate age viewer another glimpse at the scene; an admittance on Franklin’s part of what he’s trying to live up to; and most importantly, a plot device, namely the impetus for the sanity hearing of Norman Bates that opens the film proper, with Marion’s sister, Lila Loomis (Vera Miles returning), yes she went and married her sister’s old boyfriend, in attendance. As the shower scene ends on the exterior of the Bates Motel, the black and white morphs into color, a subtle way of implying that this film will not necessarily be a paint by numbers replication of the original.
Whereas as Psycho was viewed by Hitchcock in 1960 as an attempt to get away from extravagantly budgeted works such as North by Northwest and Vertigo by quickly and cheaply shooting with his Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ television crew,
Completely ignoring the novel of the same name written by original novel author, Robert Bloch (which sounds awesome by the way), Psycho II is impeccably crafted by underrated writer
Psycho II is constructed as a mystery, but it's also a really empathetic portrait of a man trying to come to grips with his past while struggling with the present. Anthony Perkins is not the subtlest of actors, but he's perfect as Norman Bates, constantly fidgeting and uncomfortable in his skin in the first film, he's shaky and unsure of himself here. The twenty-two years added wrinkles and lines to his face, but made him more distinguished and less like the teen heartthrob he was pre-1960. In Psycho we don't realize he's the killer because he's the nervous boy next door, here we don't believe he can kill because he looks like our uncle. Meg Tilly gives an impressive performance as Mary Samuels, who is first used as a decoy for her mother's attempt to get Bates back behind bars, but comes to generally care and sympathize with Norman, she too can understand being pushed around by a manipulative mother. In Psycho, Bates compensates for sexual desires by stabbing Marion to death, here he shies away from a possible loving relationship by allowing himself to be duped into believing his mother has returned.
The film does have a few nitpick worthy moments, including awkwardly getting a knife in Norman's hand early, but most are necessary evils of advancing the story or keeping the mystery, and are easily forgivable. I am also not crazy about the "twist" reveal that concludes the movie, it reminded me a lot of the Halloween II twist, which was also a Universal Picture. However, even that is worth it for a certain moment involving a shovel.
While impossible to live up to the masterpiece that the original film is (though Quentin Tarantino actually prefers the sequel), Psycho II is a respectful tribute to Hitchcock's movie which toys with audiences expectations to provide some surprises of its own while exploring themes of recovery from scars of the past and providing a very sympathetic portrait of Norman Bates. Psycho II opened on June 3rd, 1983, where it debut just below Return of the Jedi at the box office for the weekend. It was a solid commercial and critical success, prompting another trip to the Bates Motel three years later.