The term “legacy sequel” still seems to be new-ish. It’s banded about for everything from Scream, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and even more recently The Exorcist: Believer. Scream really leaned into the legacy as part of the movie’s plot, trying to make it more meta and part of the satire overall. This all started, unintentionally, with Psycho 2.
For those that may not know, a legacy sequel is a sequel to the original movie, but set much later in the timeline. Usually, the sequels are also made many years after the previous instalment.
These sequels often focus on new characters, but always have some original characters brought back. Sometimes legacy sequels are direct sequels to the original, while others ignore some, or all of the other installments in a franchise.
It seems the makers of horror franchises see money on the table after the success of Halloween… in 2018. It’s a direct sequel to the movie of the same title from 1978. It retcons everything the other sequels built up over the years. Ironically doing the same thing as Halloween H20 did, just 20 years prior. I digress.
I figured this was a great opportunity to talk about what I consider the original horror legacy sequel, which also is a pretty good movie to boot, Psycho 2.
For most of my life, I never thought about bothering with the sequels to Psycho. The movie is perfection and I assumed that the other movies were just cash grabs, because Universal Studios was sitting on the rights. Then for curiosity’s sake, I decided to watch them. The third and fourth movies are bad, to say the least, but when it comes to Psycho 2, it’s actually decent and worth a watch.
Psycho 2 was released on June 3, 1983 and, as such, it takes place 23 years after the first movie. It was written by Tom Holland – no not Spider-Man – it is the same Tom Holland that wrote and directed Child’s Play, Fright Night and, yes… The Langoliers. Arguably the worst Stephen King adaptation to date. I digress, again.
The movie was directed by Richard Franklin, who also directed Road Games, an early Jamie Lee Curtis vehicle. That movie is also pretty decent. He was a student of Alfred Hitchcock. The aforementioned movie is in fact a Hitchcock-inspired thriller.
I don’t think either he or Holland looked to fill the shoes of the original, although they did want to pay homage to it. I think that was for the best. Today the whole movie would be like Ghostbusters: Afterlife, a constant reminder of how great the original is.
Psycho 2 is actually a true sequel, even being set and made so many years later. It doesn’t just ride on the coat tails of the first movie. Basically, it wasn’t lazily written and directed. I’d say it’s refreshing, even though it was made almost 40 years ago now.
The movie is not at all related to the book, Psycho 2, which Robert Bloch wrote and published in 1982. He wrote it as a sequel to the original Psycho which was published in 1959. Apparently Universal had no interest in adapting Bloch’s book. He claims they hated it because his aim with it was to critique Hollywood slasher films. As we all know, the 80s was the height of the slasher movie subgenre. It makes sense, as Psycho 2 is made for the slasher movie audience. I can only assume that might be due to the studio trying to get in the way of itself.
Anthony Perkins returns to the infamous role of Norman Bates, although he originally turned it down. He changed his mind after reading the screenplay stating,
“When I received Tom Holland’s script, I liked it very much. It was really Norman’s story…”
Before getting Perkins back for the role, Universal looked at a few choice actors to take on the role of Bates, one of them was Christopher Walken. Who later that year would star in The Dead Zone, based on the Stephen King book of the same name.
Psycho 2 also sees the return of Vera Miles to once again portray Lila Loomis, the main protagonist of the first movie. Without spoiling anything, her character arc between the first movie and this is extremely interesting.
There are new characters of course, where would your legacy sequel be without them? Dennis Franz is the new Bates Motel manager, Warren Toomey. How is he the manager? I’m not quite sure. I mean if Norman is locked up in a looney bin, I don’t know who’s paying him? Then there’s Robert Loggia, who’s Bill Raymond, Norman’s doctor. The cast is completed by Meg Tilly, a young waitress named Mary Samuels. She’s Jennifer Tilly’s younger sister.
As I’ve said, the movie takes place 23 years after the events of the first Psycho. Norman has been in a nuthouse this whole time and learning to deal with the fact his mother really is dead. This is a major reason why the length of time between movies works so well here. There’s a sense of realism, because of how long it’s been.
Norman goes back to living in his old house, against Dr. Raymond’s wishes. We all see a still-grieving Lila Loomis pleading with the court to not let Norman back out into society. She’s not too happy, to say the least when they cut him loose anyway.
Norman gets a job at a local diner that I believe was set up as part of his release. It’s a good thing too, he has a lot of back pay he owes Toomey. While working there he meets Mary, who ends up needing a place to stay after her boyfriend kicks her to the curb. Norman offers to let her stay at the motel.
After Norman gets settled in, that’s when the slashing gets going. Along with Norman getting phone calls from apparently his dead mother.
While he’s fighting his urge to believe it’s his mother, people keep dropping dead and all we know it is someone at least dressed like a woman. Is Norman back to his old shenanigans? You’ll have to watch the movie.
Psycho 2 doesn’t hold a candle to the first movie, but more importantly, it doesn’t try to either. Sure, it’s more schlocky and in line with other slasher movies at the time, but it’s a good movie nonetheless and surprisingly, a good sequel.
If you’re a fan of these legacy sequels that are starting to stack up like a body count from a mid-80s slasher movie and haven’t seen Psycho 2, you might want to check it out.
As for the other two Psycho sequels, I wouldn’t waste my time on them, unless you’re curious like I was. At least in the fourth movie, we got some added backstory to Norman and his mother and the incestuous nature of their relationship. Spoiler alert, mother was a total MILF.
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