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Title: Psycho IV: The Beginning

Movie: :2.5stars:
Video: :3.5stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :3stars:

HTS Overall Score:69

Keeping everything straight in the world of “Psycho” is about as confusing and full of time lapses and double backs that it can only be considered the “Highlander” of the horror world. The first movie is considered one of the greatest horror movies of the last century, with it being one of Hitchcock’s finest creations. However, over the years, the series has been written, rewritten, and expanded upon so many times that it can almost be its own entity, with “Psycho” being reference material to the rest of the series. That in and of itself is not a bad thing, as there are many different takes on the history of Norman Bates, but I want to in no way diminish the reputation that the Hitchcock film is in comparison to the cheesiness of the later offerings. “Psycho II” and this entry were actually both SUPPOSED to be cheap direct to TV movies, but somehow got roped into a theatrical run. Something which benefitted the series in the long run. However, by the 4th movie the series was running out of steam with reckless abandon and ideas had basically just run their course. There’s still some entertainment to be had, but that is mainly due to the acting of Anthony Perkins more than anything.

It’s been years since the killings of Norman Bates was made legend. He’s vanished off the face of the map and never been heard from again. However, on this fateful rainy night the man is about to make one last appearance. Radio talk show host, Fran Ambrose (CCH Pounder), is having a talk with a notable psychiatrist, Dr. Leo Richmond (Warren Frost), about the subject of matricide and what makes a man want to kill his mother. This prompts a mysterious caller who gives his named only as “Ed” to call in and give HIS story to Fran and Dr. Richmond. Now we all know that this caller is in fact Norman Bates, but the people on the other end of the line are not nearly as clued into the obvious as we are. As Norman unfolds the chapters of his young life, before he became the Bates Motel killer, they are slowly made to realize that this man who they are talking about is the granddaddy of the modern matricide phenomenon, Norman Bates himself.

The commentary for “Psycho IV” gives away the fact that the film was in FACT headed for a TV market, but that was changed at the last minute to allow for a theatrical run. That little fact can kind of explain why the movie is much more constrained and less violent than some of the other entries into the franchise. In fact, it’s almost a redemptive arc for the crazed killer, which kind of diminishes the sheer terror that used to follow the character in previous outings. Although, with the set pieces drastically diminished and the film acting as a bookend to the series, it allows for some niceties about Norman to come through, something that has been rekindled in “Bates Motel” as the three seasons have humanized Norman Bates in a way that “Psycho IV” could only dream of.

The story is a two part film, with sections pertaining to the present, and sections pertaining to Norman’s young life as a teenager. The present is a bit more creepy at first because the audience doesn’t know WHY Norman is calling in. He’s dropped a hint that he has to kill once more, but that’s all we as the audience know for the time being. The past is less creepy, more because we already KNOW what he will become more than poor storytelling. Him dressing up as his mother and killing all of those women does strike a chord within me, but what is shown is nowhere as creepy or as well played out as what we see in the likes of “Bates Motel”, a show that has breathed new life into the franchise more than anything else since Hitchcock’s original film.


Rated R for violence and sensuality

Video :3.5stars:
Scream Factory (a subset of Shout Factory) has given us a very serviceable 1.78:1 AVC encoded Blu-ray for us to enjoy today. Being shot for TV it wasn’t given an overly rich and tapestried picture, but the image is usually quite nice. The present day shots where Fran is in the recording studio is bathed in darkness, where cigarette smoke fills the air and gives it a kind of hazy and soft look. Norman’s house is equally dark, but given a more golden hue imitating wood and homey countertops. Once the film jumps back in time to experience young Norman the color palette opens up a bit and plays with different colors and shades. I did notice that the film seemed very inconsistent. There was wildly differing levels of grain and softness, with some portions looking exceptionally clear and detailed, while others look a bit smoothed over. It’s a decent enough transfer, but just not reference, or at least consistent.

Audio :4stars:
Once again, “Psycho IV” was a film that was originally made for a TV market, so the inclusion of ONLY 2.0 DTS-HD MA track makes perfect sense. While the film is not as immersive as others, it is quite nicely done with a focus on dialog and stringed instruments making up the all famous horror score. Vocals are replicated quite nicely and there is plenty of force when necessary, as evidenced by slamming doors and the screams of Norma Bates in the background. Hushed voices are crystal clear only to be punctuated by explosive moments of creepiness from the crazed Norma. LFE is mild, but still adds some weight to the more intense moments.

Extras :3stars:

• The Making of Mother with Tony Gardner
• Behind the Scenes
• A Look at the Scoring of "Psycho IV"
• Photo Gallery
• Audio Commentary with Director Mick Garris and Actors Olivia Hussey and Henry Thomas.

Overall: :3.5stars:

This last entry into the “Psycho” film database is the redemptive arc for Norman Bates. All of this is meant to show that Norman has moved on from his past and buried it far beneath him. Something which feels odd because it semi-castrates the terror that should have been present. It tried so very hard to be creep with building up with the explosive confrontation between himself and his new wife Connie. A confrontation that feels surprisingly flaccid and devoid of any real terror. You know the outcome before it happens as it has been spelled out for the audience over the hour and 20 minutes. Sadly “Psycho IV” is kind of the black sheep of the franchise, and while it is mildly entertaining, doesn’t live up to even the lower entries in the first 2 sequels. Fans of the series will want to watch it as a completionist, but overall it is just a mild rental in the "Psycho" world.

Additional Information:

Starring: Anthony Perkins, CCH Pounder, Henry Thomas
Directed by: Mick Garris
Written by: Joseph Stefano, Robert Bloch
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 2.0
Studio: Shout Factory
Rated: R
Runtime: 96 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: August 23rd, 2016

Buy Psycho IV: The Beginning On Blu-ray at Amazon

Recommendation: Rental

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