Blu-ray Review: Psycho IV: The Beginning
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Psycho IV: The Beginning
Director: Mick Garris
Screenwriter: Joseph Stefano
Cast: Anthony Perkins, Henry Thomas, Olivia Hussey, CCH Pounder
Distributor: Scream Factory
Rated R | 96 Minutes
Release Date: August 23, 2016

Considered one of the first entries in the slasher film genre, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho introduced audiences to Norman Bates, the disturbed proprietor of the Bates Motel. Played by Anthony Perkins, Norman suffers from dissociative identity disorder, assuming his mother’s personality to escape the guilt he feels for murdering her. Whenever Norman feels attracted to another woman, “Mother” flies into a psychotic rage and kills her. The 1960 film has become one of the most recognizable and influential movies ever; the shower scene, in which Janet Leigh’s Marion Crane is stabbed to death, is the most iconic death captured on celluloid.

While Hitchcock’s original is an unforgettable part of cinematic history, the film’s sequels are rarely talked about with the same esteem.

Directed by Richard Franklin (Road Games) and written by Tom Holland (Child’s Play, Fright Night), 1983’s Psycho II takes place 22 years after the first film. Norman Bates (Perkins) is released from a mental institution and tries to resume a normal life. As you expect, “Mother” rears her ugly head once again. In 1986’s Psycho III, directed by Perkins, the Bates Motel is filled with interesting guests, including a drifter named Duane Duke (Jeff Fahey) and a suicidal nun (Diana Scarwid), whom Norman falls in love with. Both sequels are entertaining, even if they can’t live up to their mythic predecessor.

Then there’s Psycho IV: The Beginning, the 1990 made-for-television film directed by Mick Garris (Critters 2: The Main Course, The Stand) and written by Joseph Stefano, who penned the original script for Psycho. While not as strong as II or III, IV lays the groundwork for what would become A&E’s Bates Motel television series.

A seemingly rehabilitated Bates (Perkins) calls in to a late night radio show where the host (CCH Pounder, Tales From The Crypt Presents: Demon Knight) encourages him to share his views on the topic of matricide. Reliving his childhood, Norman recounts his trials of a young boy (Henry Thomas, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial) living with his schizophrenic mother, Norma (Olivia Hussey, Black Christmas). By revisiting these painful and haunting memories, Norman threatens to awaken “Mother” once more.

Psycho IV: The Beginning isn’t bad – it has some interesting ideas and solid performances – but it feels less like a movie and more like a proof of concept for a television series. By framing the narrative around Norman calling into a radio show, a lot of the movie is people talking on the phone. The flashbacks to Norman’s youth breakup the monotony, but even these excursions into Norman’s trouble past don’t provide much excitement.

There is, however, a ton of truly unsettling incest, so there’s that. If there’s anything truly horrific or psychologically distressing about Garris’ film, it’s this boundary-pushing element. They explore something only suggested at in the other films, making the subtext the text in a way that’s obvious and silly, but still effectively weird. Unfortunately, like most of Mick Garris’ work, IV is made with a lot of passion for the property and the genre, but just isn’t that engaging on a cinematic level. If you’re a hardcore fan of the Psycho series, you’ll want Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release to go with their stellar releases of II and III, but you may feel letdown by the film itself.

Bonus Features

Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release of Psycho IV: The Beginning includes a brand new audio commentary track with Mick Garris, Henry Thomas, And Olivia Hussey, as well as “The Making Of Mother,” a new in-depth interview with make-up effects artist Tony Gardner. Also included, rare behind-the-scenes footage and photographs from film’s production, provided by Garris.

As for the transfer, the AVC encoded 1080p, 1.78:1 presentation is solid looking for a made-for-television movie. The release’s DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track accentuates Bernard Herrmann‘s iconic score, as well as Graeme Revell‘s new music. While the law of diminishing returns applies to the Psycho series, it certainly doesn’t when it comes to Scream Factory releases. this is another solid release, and one that fans have been waiting for. Psycho IV: The Beginning is now available at Amazon.


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1 Comment »

  1. when i heard about the series Bates Motel happening, I immediately thought of this film and thought how this film might have been the launchpad for that.

    Comment by rebelYUN — August 24, 2016 @ 9:36 am

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