The stuff psychos are made of!
Antony Perkins returns and shares his legendary character with two young actors. This is Norman Bates’ backstory. We toggle between his childhood and teenage memories in order to learn about his mother’s illness and his own. Perkins narrates on and off-screen so as not to lose the original essence. This time, his madness is not questioned and real answers are provided.
We learn about his first kill. We also learn what we suspected: Mother smothered and molested Norman. Their relationship is awkward and challenges us to keep watching. We knew Norman had mommy issues, but seeing the emerging damage is troubling. Loyal to the legacy, director Mick Garris uses ambiguity to censor his own work and provides nothing more than safe scares and good suspense.
The incest scenes suggest consent from both parties. It makes the story layered but heavy, considering Norman Bates is the protagonist. As a late sequel, Psycho 4 is a cost-effective shenanigan that has Perkins talking on the phone alone in a kitchen; as a prequel, it goes deep into the sometimes unnecessary details of his madness. By casting nobodies, the rest of the film feels more organized.