Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990)

The third and final sequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s immortal classic is a significant improvement over the creaky, lumbering “Psycho 3.” This made-for-television entry serves as both sequel and prequel to the original, with a winning Henry Thomas effortlessly slipping into the role of a young Norman Bates as the audience explores his traumatic childhood while Anthony Perkins returns to the role for the last time as he struggles with normalcy and impending fatherhood. The prequel segments are impressively engaging: The dynamic between Thomas and onscreen mother Olivia Hussey are compellingly complicated and gripping, and the two share enough believable chemistry to sell the movie’s rather unsavory underlying themes like matricide and incest. However, the present-day inserts are largely corny, with genre stalwart CCH Pounder interviewing Bates over the radio as he shares both his past and his plans to kill again. Poor Pounder is reduced to a chain-smoking exposition machine while Perkins spends the entirety of his screentime looking constipated in a one-dimensional performance, with all the character’s conflicting menace and warmth eclipsed along the way. Overall, it’s not exactly an unheralded masterpiece, but “Psycho 4” is much better than one might expect from a made-for-TV horror sequel.

Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)

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