It's a bold move to make a direct sequel to one of the greatest horror movies of all-time. It's an even bolder move to use the first moments to show the most famous sequence from the original film. I am not sure how it was initially received, but everyone should now be aware of the fact that Psycho II is a pretty fantastic film, a smart and entertaining psychodrama that is more than worthy of following the flawless original.
It has been over two decades since Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins, reprising his role) was committed to psychiatric care after the grisly discoveries shown in the first movie. He has now been declared sane, which means he is a free man. This upsets Lila Crane Loomis (Vera Miles), also reprising her role from the previous movie, and Lila plans to get Norman sent back to prison as soon as possible. But Norman may have an ally, in the shape of the lovely Mary (Meg Tilly), even if Mary may also be manipulating Norman at times.
Although not quite on a par with his portrayal of the character in the first movie, being over 20 years older naturally removes some of the vulnerability and seeming innocence of Norman, Perkins is once again a captivating screen presence. Despite his past, viewers know that he's not necessarily bad, or evil. He's sick. And, compared to those around him who want to make him sicker, or want to take advantage of him, he's often sweet and well-intentioned.
Tilly is the heart of the film, Mary is a young woman with a way about her that makes it easy to believe Norman would fall for her, and want to believe the best about her. And Miles is fantastic, playing a relentless woman who wants justice, no matter how far she has to go to get it. Robert Loggia is also very good, playing the doctor who is trying to help Norman, Dennis Franz adds another sweaty douchebag role to his filmography, and Hugh Gillin returns to the role of Sheriff Hunt.
Director Richard Franklin doesn't overdo things, in terms of style and technical flourishes, he seems very much aware of the fact that the film relies on the brand name, the main character, and the script, from Tom Holland. Speaking of the script, it's a fantastic concoction of reworked moments from the original film, twists and turns involving the new characters, and a beautifully-crafted narrative that uses Norman, and his struggles with sanity, in a way that allows everything to move along on an intriguing journey that never betrays the essence of the central character.
There are some minor issues. It often feels a bit flat, more akin to a TV movie than a cinematic release, and it's a shame that the rest of the movie doesn't manage quite the same level of dark humour and playfulness that is packed into the superb third act. Those quibbles aside, however, Psycho II holds up as one of the best sequels ever. Nothing was really going to equal the first film, but this comes surprisingly close.