One of the most underrated American film franchises is the Psycho franchise. The original Psycho franchise consists of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film, Psycho, followed by Psycho II (1983), Psycho III (1986) which was directed by Norman Bates himself, Anthony Perkins, and last by not least, Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990). The four Psycho films attempt to offer a continuous story line into the world of the Bates Motel and the owner, Norman Bates. The four films take us into the world and mind of Norman Bates and show us how Norman became the deranged killer of the Bates Motel and how the actions of Norman Bates are manipulated by his mother. Is Norman’s mother the cause of the killings that occur in the Bates Motel, or is Norman responsible for his own actions? Is Norman a ruthless sociopathic killer, or is he someone who we should sympathize with due to his troubled childhood upbringing as a result of the unconventional, almost incestuous relationship with his mother?
In Hitchcock’s Psycho, there isn’t much background into who Norman Bates is. In the first film, Norman seems like an average man who runs his own motel business and happens to live with his mother in a victorian style home, overlooking the motel. We are made to believe that Norman’s mother is actually the one who commits the murders in the motel and Norman covers up her deadly deeds. As the film progresses and nears the end, we come to realize that Norman’s mother is dead, in fact, her corpse sits on a rocking chair in the basement of the Bates home. Norman was in fact responsible for the killings committed in the motel. As Norman committed the killings, however, Norman was dressed up as his mother, as if Norman’s mother was the one that killed and not Norman. Norman’s mother would kill and Norman would cover up. Norman’s mind would transform into his mother and would act as if he were his mother committing the crimes. After the killings occurred, Norman would return to his actual state of mind, whichever that may be.
A question that arises is, is it really Norman’s mother, using Norman as a living human vessel, who is actually killing or is Norman actually killing and is using the excuse of being a traumatized child who can’t help himself but kill?
The four Psycho films takes us deeper and deeper into the mind and background of Norman Bates and how he become the way he is. The four films have a connection with each other, that is, Norman is tormented by his mother. We all know that Norman’s mother is the cause of the messed up mind of Norman. As the films progress, however, we can’t help but feel sorry and sympathize with Norman. We end up feeling bad for him. My favorite of the Psycho films would have to be Psycho IV: The Beginning. In this film, we get to see exactly what happened during Norman’s childhood and what made Norman tick as he grew up. We get to see who Norman’s mother was and how she treated Norman. This film tells us exactly why Norman is the way he is.
Psycho IV: The Beginning is the last of the franchise. I don’t consider the television film Bates Motel (1987) to be part of the franchise, nor the Gus Van Sant remake. The television film doesn’t follow the world and the storyline created by the previous four films. Psycho IV: The Beginning is a swan song, not only for the Psycho film franchise, but also for Anthony Perkins, the person responsible for creating the killer of Norman Bates and being an influential character for slasher film serial killers on the loose. This would be the final time that Anthony Perkins would play Norman Bates as a result of his battle with AIDS.