PSYCHO IV: THE BEGINNING Blu-ray Review
After the poor critical and box office reception of Psycho III, Universal found themselves in a tight predicament. Opting not to follow up with screenwriter Charles Edward Pogue ‘s follow-up pitch that would have seen Norman escaping from a mental institution to sabotage a tourist attraction made out of his former house and motel, they decided instead to bring back original Psycho screen writer Joseph Stefano to explore Norman’s past relationship with his mother and show how his descent into madness came to be. The debut of Psycho IV: The Beginning on Showtime was directed by Mick Garris and proved to be a worthy addition to the Psycho franchise canon, even though Stefano’s story decided to ignore important plot threads from the previous sequels, The Beginning brings the Psycho franchise back full circle with a welcomed return to Bernard Herrmann’s original score and a psychological and sometimes bloody peak in Norman’s past to provide closure for the character and the series.
Following Norman’s rehabilitation and attempting to build a normal life with his young psychiatrist wife named Connie and their soon to be born child, Mr. Bates finds himself at home on a stormy evening listening to radio talk show host Fran Ambrose on the topic of matricide with his former psychologist Dr. Richmond and decides to treat them with a call. John Landis can be found in a subdued cameo within the radio station as a fun nod to genre fans. Fran gets Norman to open up about his former relationship with his mother and early victims through out of sequence flashbacks and all of this fairly works to the benefit of putting the viewer in the moment and being on even ground with the fictitious listeners of the radio show. Olivia Hussey was a good choice for Norma Bates, fulfilling the character with the right amounts of schizophrenic fury and seductive beauty and Henry Thomas (E.T.: the Extra-terrestrial) as young Norman displays his awkward sexual frustrations and manipulative aggression effortlessly.
The most surprising thing about a fourth entry in a horror franchise that debuted on cable is how remarkably shot it is, Rodney Charters’ cinematography and Michael Z. Hanan’s production design is quite impressive, particularly towards the blazing finale. The final entry in the Psycho legacy ended up being better than it had any right to be and a satisfying conclusion to a fairly consistent series. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release offers a great 1080p transfer but unfortunately is rather bare as far as extra features. There’s some behind-the-scenes footage and audio commentary with the director and lead actors, but until we get a definitive U.S. release of the Psycho franchise, this is the best option for completing your collection next to the previously released Psycho sequels from Scream Factory. Make sure to pick this up and revisit this entertaining swan song of Norman and Norma Bates.