Psycho II / Psycho III Richard Franklin / (Directed by Anthony Perkins

Once sequel-itis took firm hold in Hollywood in the early '80s, it seemed inevitable that one of the most venerable horror films of all time would be revisited. Psycho II (1982) finds Norman Bates returning home 22 years later seemingly cured, at least until he starts hearing voices again. After years of trying to distance himself from his signature role, Anthony Perkins embraces it once more with relish and his performance is sympathetic, believable and disturbing all at once, and it's the only one here that doesn't descend into extreme campiness. Meg Tilly plays the naïf who shacks up with him, affecting a blank deadpan that betrays her roots as a Canadian actress. The first half of the movie is patently ridiculous, setting us up for a fascinating failure, yet writer Tom Holland — who would later direct Child's Play — starts throwing twist upon twist at us, each juicier than the last, until he reaches a thoroughly morbid and satisfying ending. The direction is obviously a sad imitation of Hitchcock, but Franklin does manage some goosebumps, and Jerry Goldsmith's sinister synth and strings score helps considerably. Sadly, the same can't be said for the entirely miserable Psycho III (1986), which from the credit sequence on down comes off as a bad "made for TV" movie. (Speaking of which, one of the last things Perkins did before his death was flog this dead momma in the 1990 TV movie Psycho IV: The Beginning). Despite the fact that this is his directorial debut, the only good thing one can say about Perkins's performance is that it's equally embarrassing as everybody else's involved. This time out, Norman Bates can be found kissing fresh corpses, smashing guitars and seducing deluded nuns on the run. Shockingly, screenwriter Charles Edward Pogue penned Cronenberg's The Fly this same year, which is obviously where he dumped any talent he might have had. Where Psycho II toys successfully with the formula, Psycho III is simply formulaic and a waste of everybody's time. Extras: trailers. (Universal)