Friday, September 30, 2011

Origins of a madman: Psycho IV The Beginning (1990)

Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Anthony Perkins, CCH Pounder and Henry Thomas

I just love it when they end things with a bang! I love that deep satisfaction of a successful run and Psycho pretty much done that on its own as a franchise, with each film as watchable as they are interesting. (That is until the remake happened, but that's another story...)

Psycho IV acts as both a finale and a prequel of the whole series, with Norman Bates, apparently sane now, sharing his personal experience with a radio talk show hosted by a spunky Fran Ambrose with Norman's former psychiatrist Dr. Richmond as her guest. Bates, calling himself "Ed" over the air, soon reveals that he'll kill again, prompting everyone to start taking him seriously.

As Fran tries to talk some sense into Bates, we see his past, chronologically reversed, revolving around his mother's abusive relationship with him as a child and a teenager, his near-incestuous feeling towards her, the time she brought home a boyfriend, and the murders.

At the near end, it is revealed that Bates will soon become a father and fears that his child will be as terrible of a monster as he is. With time running out, Bates has to make a choice and decide his own fate for the last time.

I recall watching this as the very first Psycho film I indulged as a child. Unlike the last two sequels that dabbled into slasher territory, Psycho IV was more of a PSYCHOlogical narrative (haha, pun...) that puts us into the mind of Norman Bates with that much detail for the first time. However, there are some inconsistencies that leaves some fans into filling in the holes themselves. We all know that Dr. Bill of Part II was the psychiatrist who handled Norman's case but now we got this other fella claiming to be the Bates expert. My filling for this was that he probably handled Norman before he went through Dr. Bill Raymond sometime after the first film and before its sequel. But then again, this is a minor case, and I hardly see anyone working up on this.

The film isn't half bad for a finale either, as Bates is now in full "sympathy mode" and yearning for our forgiveness for all the crimes he had done, even more desperate than in part III when he tried to end "Mother's" control on his life. In here, we finally get to see how terrible Mrs. Bates was; suffering from the same line of mental problems as her son, she probably would have won the "Worst Psycho Mama" award rather than Mrs. Voorhees of Friday the 13th herself. She back talks her son, beats him for no apparent reasons (often at times she's even to blame for it) and goes crazy at the littlest things. Olivia Hussey portrays our Norma Bates, and to a good extent, she nails her part perfectly as a clingy mother and a psychopath on her own terms.

While Anthony Perkins plays his star character again as an adult while Henry Thomas fills in the shoes of a teen Bates. Though Thomas' portrayal can be a bit dodgy at times, he managed to play the "Mother" role with creepiness as he murders those who arouses him and shows a premature Bate's descent into madness.

The murders aren't anything special, but acceptable enough to fill in some time. The real cake in this movie is the story, appealing and well-scripted to keep you glued on the screen, it backs up every tiny detail of the narration and tries as much as possible to pass a workable story that was only hinted in the original.

Overall, Psycho IV is something entirely different as a slasher sequel, and considering the themes this movie had to work with, it surprisingly resulted to one moderate success as it dares to go further than most (recent) TV movies might. A lot of heart was in this and I wholly accept it. Best way to end a classic slasher series!

1 female knifed to death
1 male seen dead, stung to death by bees
1 female strangled with rope, later drowned in a lake whilst trapped in a car
1 male poisoned
1 female poisoned
total: 5

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