The Film (2.5/5)
The Psycho film series is one that should have simply not have been. The first film was a masterpiece of terror created by Alfred Hitchcock, an absolute cinematic master and was such a cinematic gut punch that no film should have followed in it's shoes. However, 20 years after the original film, and just a handful of years after the death of Hitchcock himself, we were greeted with Psycho II, which did the unthinkable. It not only made a successful sequel to Psycho, but did so while forging it's own distinct path (though it did use the shower scene from the original over the film's opening moments).
It was a success for studio Universal, and as horror was big business in the 80's we would soon have a Psycho III less than 5 years later. This one followed the popular trend of the era by falling into the vein of a sleazy slasher film. It wasn't bad, but it was not up to the quality of either of its predecessors. In 1990 Universal, in conjunction with Showtime made Psycho IV. The film served as both a prequel to the first film, and a sequel to either the first film or the whole series, depending on one's perspective of the information doled out during the film's running time.
Psycho IV stars Anthony Perkins (The Trial, Crimes of Passion) as Norman Bates. Since Psycho III he has finished his latest incarceration at the mental hospital, been released, and married a nurse from the facility named Connie. However, his mania has begun to strike again as Connie has recently told him the "good news" that she is pregnant with his child. This disturbs Norman, as he fears his insanity will pass to the next Bates generation. Meanwhile, Fran Ambrose, a popular AM talk show host is having a show about matricide. Norman calls in, and discusses his life with his Mother Norma Bates (Olivia Hussey), and what drove him to be a psycho.
I'm not sure if any sequel to Psycho was truly necessary, with Psycho II being the only one I would deem good by any normal standard. However, Psycho IV I will say is a good little horror time-waster. Usually, when a film like Psycho or Halloween is frightening filling in a particular characters backstory while pleasing to the fans just lessens the impact of the original work. However, Hitchcock did that himself explaining Norman's condition during the epilogue of the original Psycho.
The film has an interesting set up with which to conclude the series. In a way it's sort of like Mick Garris channeling Truffaut's Love on the Run, only creating new material to do so. We are catching up with Norman at his current position in life, and looking at what made him who he is today. At the films conclusion we see Norman making a final attempt to free himself from the past he has spent the entirety of the film discussing.
Garris as director handles the material well. It isn't particularly stylish direction, but that has never been his forte. He gets solid performances, and keeps things flowing solidly from one moment to the next. The main cast Anthony Perkins, Henry Thomas, CCH Pounder, and Olivia Hussey perform very well in their parts. Of course, Perkins by this point has Bates down to a science from the 3 prior times he performed the role, and from other B-Movie roles that required he play Bates-lite roles.
The biggest problem is with the script by Joseph Stefano. Stefano has the distinction of being the screenwriter of the original Psycho. However, his work here is clumsy and heavy handed. Norma Bates is depicted as suffering from emotional instability and mental issues herself, but these are treated like a hammer to the face instead of the subtlety that is required of such things. I know we are talking about a direct to TV horror sequel, but I feel that these issues, and yes, these characters deserve better.
Scream Factory presents Psycho IV in a solid 1:78:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer. This is a solid transfer from Scream that takes a film shot for TV and makes it look probably better than it ever has before. The detail present in the transfer is quite solid, though not a colorful film by any means color reproduction is solid, and skin tones are accurate. Black levels are nice and deep. There is some softness to some of the exterior moments, but overall things are quite solid throughout.
The audio is presented with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track in English. The track is quite solid with dialogue, score, and ambient effects coming through nicely. I did not detect any issues during my playthrough.
Scream Factory has put together a nice package for their release of Psycho IV. We get a commentary track with Garris, Olivia Hussey, and Henry Thomas. A 27 minute making of piece with the film's FX artist detailing the making of the dead bodies in the film. There is a 13 minute BTS piece recorded on set by Mick Garris, a 6 minute piece on creating the film's score, and the trailer.
Psycho IV is an interesting, but largely unmemorable conclusion to the Psycho film series. The Blu-ray from Scream Factory, however, looks and sounds excellent, and comes with a nice slate of extras. RECOMMENDED.