Sunday, August 28, 2016

PSYCHO IV: THE BEGINNING (1990) (Blu-ray Review)

Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: 
Rating: R
Duration: 96 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Mick Garris 
Cast: Anthony Perkins, CCH Pounder, Henry Thomas, Olivia Hussey, Warren Frost

Synopsis: A seemingly rehabilitated Norman Bates (Perkins) is drawn to a late night radio show where the host (CCH Pounder, Tales From The Crypt Presents: Demon Knight) encourages him to share his views on the topic of matricide. Reliving his childhood, Norman recounts his trials of a young boy (Thomas, Ouija 2) living with his widowed schizophrenic mother (Hussey, the original Black Christmas). These haunting memories are more than just disturbing visions of the past; they threaten to rekindle his killing urge in this spine-tingling thriller directed by Mick Garris (The Stand, Masters of Horror).

Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990) catches up with our old friend Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) a few years after his incarceration at the end of the third movie, he been rehabilitated ...sure he has. We catch up with him at his home listening to a call-in radio program hosted by Fran Ambrose (CCH Pounder, Demon Knight) who is discussing matricide, a topic close to Norman's heart, and coincidentally her guest on the show is  Dr. Richmond, Norman's, none other than former psychologist from the asylum. Norman of course cannot resist the urge and calls into the show under the alias "Ed" and speaks about his past and also says that he plans to kill his pregnant wife this very same night. 

What follows is a series of flashbacks to Norman's formative childhood and teenage years as he tell his story beginning with the death of his father, Norman is left alone to care for and in care of his increasingly unstable mother. Norma has some serious issues with her Norman's burgeoning sexuality curiosity, admonishing him for his sexual curiosity and dressing the poor kid in women's clothes as punishment when he pops an erection next to her in bed... hmm, it's all starting to make sense now. Young Norman is played by Henry Thomas (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial) and he does a decent turn as the troubled Norman, he looks the part but for me he just never plugged into the character. Norma is played by Olivia Hussey (Black Christmas) who plays nutty Mama Bates nicely with a mix wide-eyed insanity and lunatic parenting, treating Norman poorly while carrying on a torrid relationship with her new lover Chet (Thomas Schuster). Chet is a brute of a guy and bullies the young Norman. His contempt for the man and his tormentor mother finally boils over when Norman serves them both poisoned iced teas, the lovers die a vomitous and wonderfully painful death, which was my favorite scene in the movie natch. 

In the aftermath Norman is racked with guilt over the murder of his mother which develops into the dissociative identity disorder we know him so well for, becoming the murderous young man we met in Alfred Hitchcock's 1965 classic. Norman murders a pair of women who are unlucky enough to turn him on, triggering his alternate personality of "mother", these are some quality scenes, but the good stuff is too few and far between. Thomas does not exactly fill the shoes of Perkins so much as make a decent enough place holder in the story, managing to hold his own against Hussey's version of Mother. Perkins does just fine taking up the role of Perkins again, he has a charm and menace that comes easy, after playing the character over a span of thirty-five years the guy can probably turn it on and off like blinking an eye, the guy still had it, even if the script didn't. 

As the movie moves forward radio host Fran Ambrose and Dr. Richmond start to piece together who "Ed" is and argue over what course of action should be taken. In the end we discover the reasons why Norman is planning to kill his wife, who is a psychiatrist, which smacks a bit of Harley Quinn and Joker, I also thought that Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers might have borrowed that scene where Loomis is listening to the radio program about Michael Myers. While I rather enjoyed the flashback scenes the wrap-around radio program nonsense did nothing for me, it felt tacked-on, not developed, not needed and padded for running time. This prequel feels very much like the made for TV movie it was, it lacks scope and some grandiosity, but it is not awful. Mick Garris is a serviceable director and he does what he can with the mixed bag of a screenplay, which was penned by Psycho (1965) scribe Joseph Stefano, though this is a shadow of his former screenplay.  

Audio/Video: Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990) arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory looking solid, the anamorphic 1.78 widescreen looking fairly sharp with some nice depth and clarity, the grain can be a bit course in the darker scenes, but overall this is a very pleasing presentation. The lone audio option is an English DTS-HD MA 2.0 track with optional English subtitles. The track is nicely balanced and fairy robust. the score used which Bernard Hermann's iconic original score in addition to some new stuff from Graeme Revell sounds great. 

The disc includes an Audio Commentary from Director Mick Garris and Actors Olivia Hussey and Henry Thomas, Garris is always a great commentator and an astute moderator, this is a great track in which the director is very candid about his experience working with Anthony Hopkins who was not impressed my the young director at the time of filming. 

There's also a half hour making of doc with new interviews from Mick Garris, Actors Henry Thomas And Olivia Hussey, rare behind-the-scenes video of the making of the movie, a gallery of on-set photos and video of the movie being scored by Graeme Revell. All things considered this is a pretty packed edition, great to have all of the Psycho movies on Blu-ray here in the U.S.. 

Bonus Features
- NEW Audio Commentary With Director Mick Garris, Actors Henry Thomas And Olivia Hussey
- NEW The Making Of Mother: An Interview With Make-up Effects Artist Tony Gardner (28 Mins) HD 
- Rare Behind-The-Scenes Footage From Director Mick Garris (13 Mins) HD 
- Photo Gallery Of Rare Photos From Mick Garris (6 Mins) HD 
- A Look at the Scoring (of) Psycho IV (6 Mins) HD 

I only vaguely remembered watching this on cable back at the start of the grunge decade and had only small hope of it succeeding as a prequel to the iconic suspense classic, but at least it wasn't awful, just not very good, and as such it probably wont ave huge appeal aside from the die-hard collectors, but for those who need it this new edition from Scream Factory looks and sounds great in HD and has some worthy extras.