Psycho IV: The Beginning

Its violent variations on the Oedipus complex seem to have made Psycho an enduring pop-culture phenomenon. This third sequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s great 1960 suspense film certainly emphasizes the dangers of mommy-love. Psycho IV is a sustained psychoanalysis of the ending of the first Psycho, in which we saw that Anthony Perkins’ Norman Bates had killed his mother and committed further murders dressed in her clothes.

The new movie spells out everything the initial film implied. Henry Thomas, who has sprouted up since he starred in E.T., plays Norman as a goggle-eyed teenager in thrall to the glowing eyes and carelessly knotted bathrobe of his mother. She is played by Olivia Hussey, who has certainly aged well since starring in Romeo and Juliet 22 years ago.

Hussey’s sophisticated mama — whom you don’t for a second believe would stick around a hick town running a shabby joint like the Bates Motel — drives Norman literally crazy. One minute she’s showing affection by pulling him down on the floor and rolling around on top of him; the next minute, she’s punishing him for naughty thoughts by dressing him in her clothes and locking him in her closet. Dr. Freud, would you like a double or a king-size bed?

Henry Thomas seems to have grown into a much better actor than this goofiness permits us to confirm. Norman’s youth is recounted in flashback by Perkins himself. To his credit, Perkins always manages to reprise this role with charm, cunning, and a sense of humor that avoids campiness. All of which the rest of Psycho IV lacks. C-

Psycho IV: The Beginning
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