Bates Motel – Season 5, Episode 9: “Visiting Hours”

A&E’s Bates Motel
Season 5, Episode 9: “Visiting Hours”
Directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi
Written by Scott Kosar

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Body” – click here
* For a recap & review of the series finale, “The Cord” – click here
Pic 1Norman (Freddie Highmore) is being booked into the police station, going through processing. Well, Mother (Vera Farmiga) is there, too. Love the excellent use of the idea of the double personality. How we see both Mother and Norman in the frame at once, as others only see the latter. Mother’s not happy to hear about the next steps, that her boy is likely headed to jail. Sweet, young Norman wouldn’t do well behind bars.
Emma (Olivia Cooke) and Dylan (Max Thieriot) are finally back together. She didn’t want him to be alone dealing with all the madness. Now, she also discovers her mother is dead, dredged from the lake. Murdered. And Dylan knows “it was Norman.” It’s not just the fact her mom is dead. It’s the fact Emma lived there in White Pine Bay, being around Norman and Mother so long, and she had no idea that this budding psychopath lurked in his skin. That one day he would do something so horrible. Such a feeling of deception, a truly deep betrayal.
Pic 1AThe Bates Motel is a scene of massive interest, various law enforcement teams searching the grounds, metal detectors, crime scene investigation. Sheriff Jane Greene (Brooke Smith) and a team are inside the eerie house, where Mother’s room remains untouched, and obviously her son’s been sleeping in her bed like a creep. A veritable house of horrors, if there ever were one. Outside they find luggage belonging to Audrey Decody, Emma’s mother. Downstairs, there’s poor Chick (Ryan Hurst), shot in the head by the still fleeing jailbird former Sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell).
Speaking of Alex, he’s like a man with nothing at all whatsoever to lose. No telling what his next move is, part of the fun.
Meanwhile, Emma reels from the news about her mother, about Norman. I also feel bad for Dylan because, despite his own troubles and mistakes, he never wanted any of this, for himself or Emma. “You didnt bring Norman into my life,” she tells him. Things between the two of them aren’t easy, and she isn’t sure what this means for their relationship.
Lawyer Julia Ramos (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) visits with Norman/Mother. They speak of the coming trial, what he/she ought to expect. They have to discuss their “approach.” Y’know, keeping Norman alive. She wants to go for an insanity plea. Love this sequence, too. The editing cuts us from Mother speaking to Norman taking over. There’s a real battle happening inside that one body.
Norman: “Everyone has multiple personalities, Julia. We pull out what we need when we have to.”


The trouble between Dylan and Emma is compounded by the fact Julia wants him in court to sit behind Norman, to support his brother. It’s very difficult for him to turn his back. Not that a serial killer deserves sympathy. But this is the enjoyable part of this Psycho adaptation, is that Norman isn’t only this disturbed killer, we’ve seen a much more expanded, complex vision of who Norman Bates is and how he reached this destination. Because slashers are great, I personally love them.
But Bates has always been a more interesting character than a slasher; Hitchcock’s film and Peeping Tom from Michael Powell gave birth to the genre. He’s had more to him even in the little we get to see his psychosis through Hitchcock. Which is why I think Bates Motel is a worthy piece in the makeup of Norman Bates as a character, as it doesn’t squander the prequel. It does the story and the characters justice.
Alex is still out on the run. He gets gas and runs into a man interested in the late ’60s-era car he’s driving. Just a friendly thing, but enough to fuel more paranoia for a man escaping the law. And everywhere he goes he’s still reminded of Norma, the fact that Norman is a killer, so on.
In court, Dylan shows up to support his brother regardless of the trouble it causes; hard to turn your back on family, particularly the crazy ones. A preliminary hearing. First up is Sheriff Greene on the stand, who talks about the murder of Blackwell, as well as Sam Loomis and Emma’s mother. To see Norman listen to the recounting of his crimes along with others, probably the first time he’s actually faced them, it’s chilling. Now we’re seeing people heap blame on Dylan, for knowing there was something deeply wrong with his brother and not doing something about it. That’s unfair as a judgement.


Emma says goodbye to her mother in a quick cremation ceremony. She brings the ashes out to the woods and scatters them on the open air. Sort of a fitting tribute for a woman who so obviously lived a travelling lifestyle, away from her family. Sweet, but definitely simultaneously bitter. She and Dylan keep putting their best foot forward together, though it’s unclear how well that’ll work in the long run.
Before leaving Emma goes to visit Norman. It’s a painful thing, as he puts on his best act. Although it’s all but clear Mother is operating the controls for that conversation. Not accepting the blame, the best defence. And Emma knows, she asks: “Wheres Norman?” Then the conversation shifts with Mother talking directly to her. Ah, the psychosis is so very evident, in full view for the first time for her.
Not long later Alex puts a gun to Julia in the parking lot, pushing his way inside the station. Closer to Norman. He puts everyone at gunpoint, making the officers hug the floor. He takes things slow, being careful, disarming them. Another officer shows up and gets a bullet to the shoulder.
Romero gets to the cell, then Norman is taken out as the officers are locked inside. He almost chokes the young man to death before letting go. He piles himself, Norman, and Julia into a car, then they’re headed to wherever the son put Mother’s body. Shiiiit.


What a spectacular penultimate episode to this series! Wow. I’m consistently amazed by this series, and now and then it really takes me for a perfect ride. I think Season 5’s been my favourite of all, honestly. They’re swinging for the fences and producing the best Norman Bates prequel that they could have done. Last episode is “The Cord” and I believe that’ll be in reference to the cord connecting Mother and Norman, the figurative umbilical cord still attaching the boy to his mom? Maybe. We’ll see.

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Bates Motel – Season 5, Episode 7: “Inseparable”

A&E’s Bates Motel
Season 5, Episode 7: “Inseparable”
Directed by Steph Green
Written by Freddie Highmore

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Marion” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Body” – click here
Pic 1Now that Norman (Freddie Highmore) has killed Sam Loomis, there’s a little of issue of disposing of the body with which he has to deal. Luckily he’s got Mother (Vera Farmiga) to help. She’s old hand at these kinds of things. The two split psyches each take their own respective duties, as she handles all the bloody, messy bits. To help protect her boy from the nasty truth. Regardless, he’s having trouble with the entire situation.
Norma: “You wanna play with the big kids, you gotta act like the big kids.”
Worse is the fact the pair find that in the nearby lake, their dumping grounds, a body’s pulled from the water. Norman worries about Jim Blackwell’s corpse being found, that Sheriff Jane Greene (Brooke Smith) will catch them. While Mother and her boy argue, they slap one another across the fact, and the large wedge between them opens up, as Norman finally figures out this isn’t the first time they’ve been out dumping bodies under cover of night. They dump Sam in a well in the woods, but it feels too rushed.
Pic 1ABack at the motel Norman runs into none other than Sheriff Greene, who’s there to talk about what they found in the lake. “Multiple bodies” and one of them Mr. Blackwell. So Norman plays his game trying to keep his secret life under wraps, as the sheriff’s still wondering about all the connections, as well as whatever Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) is up to since his escape. A tense conversation between Greene and the young man. He’s just barely hanging on to the mask.
Speaking of Romero, he’s recuperating in bed at the home of an old friend. She’s taken care of his wound, now he’s on bed rest and eating breakfast. Lucky for him he has anyone, particularly after his early exit from jail.
More every minute, Norman worries about what’ll happen if the authorities come snooping around. He has to figure out what to do with Mother, so that nobody finds her body. An awkward moment; almost like the roles have reversed temporarily, and Norman is shielding Mother from the harsher truth of having to move her body. Such a strangely compelling scene. And of course any time we see the body it’s a – I swear this isn’t meant to be a pun – cold reminder of what is really going on inside that creepy house. Either way he takes Mother’s body out to a special place in the woods where the ground is nice and cool, to preserve her until she can come home.


Dylan (Max Thieriot) has come back to White Pine Bay, after hearing of his mother’s supposed suicide. Being back in the house is like a punch in the gut for him, knowing there is more to the story of her death. Walking around the house, he can feel his mother there. Her presence isn’t gone, barely even a bit. The place is a mess, dishes in the sink, and Norma’s high heels are kicked off in front of one of the chairs. One truly eerie shot there. Dylan tries to act normal with his brother, not immediately throwing suspicion and guilt around. They actually act like brothers, for a moment. Until Mother comes lurking in the background. Big brother does express his worry for little brother living alone, not seeing his doctor, and he wants to stay a few days to help Norman smooth life out. Hmm, not sure how that’ll play out with Mother creeping. Her room is virtually untouched, like a shrine.
In his friendly hospice, Alex wants to find his gun, but his friend hides it from him. She doesn’t want him running off and doing more stupid shit to dig his hole deeper. They’re friends from growing up in White Pine Bay, she knows him through and through. And she can tell this has to do with Norma Bates.
At home, Mother worries about having Dylan around. She calls him “misguided” and plays the Him v. Us card. That he’ll make things too difficult, he can’t be part of their life now. Just Mother and her little boy, that’s the way it was intended. Will he go along with it? Can he convince Dylan that everything’s swell and he can go on back to his life with Emma and their new baby?
Out trying to get his brother more medication, Dylan discovers Norman’s doctor has been missing for over a year; there’s no way his brother had coffee with him recently. Yikes. Everything gets trickier when Dylan also runs into Madeleine Loomis (Isabelle McNally). She’s looking for Sam. The missing people on the possible list are piling up.
Pic 3Norman’s cooking a nice dinner for he and his brother. Life seems grand, music plays. All appears right. Certainly Dylan can’t shake what he knows, or what he thinks he knows. He brings up Sam Loomis, they have a conversation about what Norman remembers. He makes up a little(/tall) tale. It all devolves as the younger of the two gets upset over his older brother “meddling with the truth.” All Dylan wants is to protect him, to help him heal and get better. He tries convincing Norman to take his pills again.
Then it all goes haywire. Mother comes out to speak with her oldest boy. She doesn’t want her baby taking the medication, effectively making her go away. Unfortunately, there’s only room for one of Norma’s children. She tries to kill Dylan, Norman holding back the knife in her hand. The two personalities wrestle, as Dylan watches on in horror. Norman manages to overcome her.
He goes to the phone. Dials 911. And he reports himself for the murder of Sam Loomis before Mother can stop him.
Pic 4WOW! Just, damn. I didn’t see that ending coming. This puts the last few episodes into a wild frame, not exactly positive what the endgame is but I’m excited to watch it unfold. The next episode is “The Body” and I’m wondering if we’re about to see some truly disturbed, insane acting from Highmore once he and Mother are under lock and key.

Bates Motel – Season 5, Episode 6: “Marion”

A&E’s Bates Motel
Season 5, Episode 6: “Marion”
Directed by Phil Abraham
Written by Carlton Cuse & Kerry Ehrin

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Dreams Die First” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Inseparable” – click here
Pic 1Marion Crane (Rihanna) is just pulling in to the Bates Motel, where Sam Loomis (Austin Nichols) once took her. And waiting, as always, is Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore). We’re in prime Hitchcock-Bloch Psycho territory now!
In checks Marion to a quaint room, and Norman, he seems to recognise her, or something about her. He puts her right in Room 1, too. Y’know, to keep an eye on her real close, through his nifty little peephole. But Marion’s also hungry. And so we’re set up for that classic Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins sandwich scene, just slightly different. One of the reasons I love the series, the adaptation is so snappy. Always familiar yet also fresh.
Pic 1AProblem is that mother (Vera Farmiga) comes around, criticising, trying to make all of Norman’s choices. He’s accepted, as much as he can, that he is “insane” and forgets things, he dissociates from himself. He and mother are at odds, after he discovered her supposed secret. So, he’s accepted his insanity. He knows she isn’t there, but… she is, sort of. He still sees her because of Marion’s arrival. Mother disapproves of attractive women traipsing around her son. What we’re seeing here is a devastatingly sad plea from the inner part of Norman, the part that doesn’t want to be crazy. He insists on proving that mother isn’t real, which is only going to bring Norma out in worse, more full force.
Norman: “But the world is full of mad people who function, many of whom are heads of state, so I think I can manage running a motel.”
Emma (Olivia Cooke) reveals to Dylan (Max Thieriot) she found out Norma died, an apparent suicide. However, her estranged son doesn’t believe it. Despite her troubles Norma was a fighter, against all odds. It doesn’t surprise me that others would be suspicious.
At the motel, Norman brings Marion a sandwich. They sit in the back of his office, with the retro decor and the taxidermy. They talk a little, about the taxidermy; he explains it’s a way to honour the animals. Creepy, no matter how you cut it, Norman. Then eventually they come to talk of family. He says he lives with his mother. She lost her mother early on, her father didn’t want to keep her. A life on her own, essentially. He ruminates on love, caring for others – are the ones you love really the people you think they are, deep down?
Norman: “Its hard to be lonely, but its also hard to love people.”
Sam can’t get away, unable to tell Marion he’s married to Madeleine (Isabelle McNally). But he has other problems. His wife, in spite of being angry with Norman for his intrusion on their marriage, isn’t happy that he’s been stepping out. And Marion’s still left in that motel.


Tsk, tsk, Norman. Naughty boy. Using that peephole to spy on his guest as she undresses. Mother’s not going to like this, not one bit. His internal struggle is so disturbingly realised visually, audibly, as he tries not to go insane listening to mother whisper in his ear. All the while Marion steps into the shower. Uh oh.
But there’s no Bernard Herrmann score, no stabbing. Marion decides to go to reception, she wants to see the registry. To find Sam. Now, Norman knows where he’s seen her before – right there at the motel with her clandestine boyfriend. Likewise she finds out about the dude’s wife, even if she doesn’t want to believe it right away. Then Norman gives up the address, and she sees for herself. An interesting, exciting twist to the Hitchcock plot we know so well.
Marion’s pissed. She smashes up Sam’s car for good measure before heading out, which puts Sam on the bad side of both his wife and mistress. Serves him right. I wonder where this mess is headed.
That night Dylan calls Norman, they argue over what happened to Norma. “You never knew her that well,” the younger brother scolds. I can see Dylan eventually coming back to White Pine Bay, he knows something isn’t right. In the meantime, Norman’s still got mother kicking around making his mind a tough place to be. Rather than let mother make supper, he makes his own. He tries his hardest to deny her presence. She throws the place into disarray until he admits she’s real. He’s lost ultimate control, and I don’t think there’s any going back. Not at this juncture in his psychosis.


At the motel Marion’s distressed, and Norman goes to see her. He tries comforting her what little he can. She’s double fucked because her boyfriend is a piece of shit, plus she also stole from her boss(/his client). Maybe triple fucked. Considering she’s sitting on a bed next to Norman; not the rebound man she’d like to get involved with, ideally. And unfortunately for her, in the predicament between Sam and her embezzlement, she’s like a perfect victim for psycho Norman. But the good part left in him, he tries to rush her away. He knows mother is lurking. Then off into the night goes Ms. Crane.
And Sam comes looking at the motel, to find an empty room. She even tossed her cell out the window off the highway, so he can’t reach her. In the back of the office, Norma talks to Norman about his father, and then they get real. As psychosis to psycho. Mother was a tough front against things he “couldnt stand to feel.” But she says that now, he must feel those things. Knowledge is a double-edged sword. After she indoctrinates him to the truth of his life, Norman is convinced that Sam Loomis is a bad, bad man. Just like his father.
Norma: “We are two parts of the same person. Both are very real.”


Well, looks like we’ve found our new shower scene.
Norman goes into Room 1 while Sam showers. And while Roy Orbison’s “Crying” plays, rather than the iconic Herrmann score, a semi-lucid Norman stabs him to death. Blood spraying. Roy wailing in the background. Sam pulls the shower curtain down, too. What a magnificent, sick adaptation! Wow.
Norman: “Oh, mother. What have I done?”


This is now my second favourite episode of the series. Downright fantastic stuff! I keep saying the adapted writing is spectacular. Ehrin and Cuse pull out all stops here. Truly great work, all around. Love how we thought Marion was going to die as she did in the film, then they switched it up perfectly. I can’t get over it, honestly. Excited for “Inseparable” next week.

Bates Motel – Season 5, Episode 5: “Dreams Die First”

A&E’s Bates Motel
Season 5, Episode 5: “Dreams Die First”
Directed by Nestor Carbonell
Written by Erica Lipez & Kerry Ehrin

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Hidden” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Marion” – click here
Pic 1Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) is gradually figuring things out about himself. The more he falls into the delusion of mother (Vera Farmiga) still being alive, the farther he falls into a dark headspace, half knowing he’s mad, half unable to stop the process. He wakes up with scratches on his back, not exactly sure where they came from, but Norman goes on to face the day. Only Norma’s nowhere to be found.
Where could she have gone? Clues are all he has, including a matchbook from a bar. Then Sheriff Jane Greene (Brooke Smith) calls him up, says she has something they need to talk about. Hmm.
Pic 1AEmma (Olivia Cooke) finds one of her mother’s earrings kicking around, though Dylan (Max Thieriot) claims it was his mother’s jewellery. Ah, the truth on that end has yet to come out. And building that new life of his, all honest and proper, I don’t think Dylan’s going to be able to let that sit. Not forever. I suspect this will have something to do with the last few episodes, and the fate of what happens to Norman in the long run.
Sheriff Greene wants to try prying more information about former Sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) – who he knew, his friends, hobbies, anything. Of course Norman only offers that he was a “lonely, very unhappy man.” She knows there’s a reason Romero has escaped, to come back to White Pine Bay and finish some previously unfinished business. She’s too smart, and Norman is up against more than he can handle, for now. He can’t simply bullshit his way out of this one, not with Sheriff Greene.
Again at home Norman can’t find mother. He seethes with rage, believing that she’s hiding or avoiding him. So he calls up the White Horse Bar, from the matchbook. Apparently Norma left her car there last night and the bartender has her keys. Has Norman been actually going OUT dressed as mother? Yikes, that is an escalation.
When Emma brings up the earring to Dylan they talk of contacting Norma. He doesn’t want any part of it, getting a bit angry. But it’s more so the fact he’s pretty sure his brother killed his mother-in-law.


Later on, Madeleine Loomis (Isabelle McNally) calls Norman to apologise for their previous evening. Her husband’s off in Seattle. She offers to drive Norman over to pick up his car; the longer they’re in contact, the more I worry for her. Especially the cold, detached way he acts, which gets worse as he tangles with mother’s influence. Still, he offers good advice for Madeleine – talk to her husband, figure things out. Soon Norman finally reveals to her that the first time he met Sam the guy was bringing a woman to the Bates Motel. She doesn’t respond well, unwilling to believe what he’s told her. Hurt, angry, she leaves.
Norman: “I sure understand what it is to be lonely, although I dont have a choice.”
Except Sam Loomis (Austin Nichols) is rolling around in bed with Marion Crane (Rihanna). More than that they’re in love, deeply. She doesn’t even care about his shitty debt. Now she’d like to come down to White Pine Bay for a visit, though he’d rather she not. This starts to setup a revisiting of the plot from Robert Bloch’s (/Alfred Hitchcock’s adaptation of) Psycho. From what I see so far, Rihanna will make an interesting Marion, a totally different version from Janet Leigh, and there ain’t nothing wrong with that. She has the sort of mysterious, alluring look the role requires.
We get a brief look at Marion’s life, her work as a notary, having to deal with arrogant men around her in the financial industry. All working towards her eventual getaway.
Pic 3Norman gets to the White Horse Bar and picks up the keys to his car. Pretty sure the bartender remembers him, probably from wearing a dress, a blonde wig, et cetera. Such a creepy, unsettling conversation, as it’s clear the guy doesn’t realise that Norma and Norman don’t know they’re the same person. Just a fantastic scene! Norman’s really going to pieces.
We’ve come to it – Mr. Lowery gives Marion the hundreds of thousands of dollars to deposit, so that it isn’t sitting at the office over the weekend. He’s also dismissive of her talent, being a bit harsher than needed. And this all but mentally seals the deal for Marion. Sitting next to the briefcase you can see the wheels in her brain turning.
Driving in the street, Norman comes across Dr. Gregg Edwards (Damon Gupton). They have a cup of coffee together. Norman thanks the good doctor for his help. He lies about taking his medication, not having blackouts. Then Dr. Edwards mentions his “coping mechanisms” for dealing with trauma – a.k.a becoming mother – and this all but sends the young man into a trance. He knows that he sees mother when she’s “not really there” and that he becomes her. And certainly Norman denies all of this to the doc, saying it never happens anymore. Yeah, right. Even a blind man would see through that.
Jumping in her little red Mazda, loaded to the gills with cash, Marion hits the highway. What I love is that we’re getting all the same plot points about Ms. Crane, only that they’re adapted to make things a little different and fresh. When a cop pulls her over, she isn’t sleeping like Janet Leigh, she’s got a coat sticking from the trunk; the cop is also played by series producer Carlton Cuse. Tense moment when she pops her trunk, worrying all that money will be found. Then, nothing. She heads on further to White Pine Bay.
Not only that, she’s calling Sam who isn’t pleased to hear she is on her way. Plus, it seems Marion isn’t in on the fact he’s a married man. What a double dealing bastard. This puts Marion in such a terrible position, essentially driven out there to him and only to soon find her way into a horrific situation at the Bates Motel.
Pic 4Dylan sits Emma down and tells her about why he cut off contact with Norma. He explains about Norman, his mental illness. That he could “do anything” in his fits of rage. He talks about Blair Watson, Norman killing his father. Then he brings up the earring, that Norma was holding onto it. Eventually, Dylan says he believes it was possible something bad happened to her mother at the motel, obviously freaking Emma out and upsetting her for not knowing sooner.
Searching for answers, Norman goes to the White Horse where he’s recognised. This is another aspect of the adaptation I love! He isn’t just going into a psychosis at home, hurting people. He’s out living a life crossdressing as Norma, hitting the bar and meeting people. This isn’t merely a way to dissociate into a state where he kills, this is a full on identity crisis. He isn’t dressing up as mother: he is LIVING as mother. Even having sex as a mother. Yowzahs, Norman! He winds up having an episode in the bathroom after encountering the man he hooked up with the night before. One of the single eeriest scenes ever on Bates Motel.
Norman: “I need my mother
That night when Emma Googles the Bates Motel, she discovers that Norma was found dead of an apparent suicide. This will definitely start bringing Dylan back into the mix of Norman and mother’s fucked up lives.
And Marion, she’s pulling up to the Bates Motel to meet Sam. While Norman is in the midst of a state of terrible psychosis. What will happen next?


Jesus, do I ever love this show! The series gets better all the time, and now with the Psycho plot in motion I’m incredibly interested in how the series will do its swan song in the final episodes. Lots to look forward to, and I do think Rihanna will impress as Marion Crane.
Next is the aptly titled “Marion” in which we’ll witness her arrival at the motel, as well as whatever that brings.

Bates Motel – Season 5, Episode 4: “Hidden”

A&E’s Bates Motel
Season 5, Episode 4: “Hidden”
Directed by Max Thieriot
Written by Torrey Speer

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Bad Blood” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Dreams Die First” – click here
Pic 1Now that Chick (Ryan Hurst) is officially in on the body count, how will things unfold for him going forward with Norman (Freddie Highmore) and Norma (Vera Farmiga)?
First of all, they’ve got to deal with the corpse of Caleb (Kenny Johnson) that’s sprawled in the middle of the road. Norman wouldn’t mind calling the sheriff, though the other two aren’t so sure about that option. And clearly Chick isn’t keen on that for being the one to have hit him. Seeing Norman navigate conversation between a dead woman and a living man is delightfully disturbing. Then Chick takes the corpse, Norman takes the groceries, and that’s that!
Can’t forget about Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell). He’s been shot on a farm while heading back towards White Pine Bay. He pleas with the kid who shot him for a bit of first aid, so on. Not like Alex is going to the cops, having escaped a police transfer last episode. What motivates him seems to be just an utter need, a burning desire to get home and deal with Norman, once and for all.
Pic 2I love Chick. He’s so weird and quirky, but not too much. He is way out there. Not so far that it’s annoying or that it doesn’t fit. Sort of nice to see someone amongst this cast of characters over five whole seasons who isn’t the same typical White Pine Bay resident like all the other greasy, crooked people that exist in their small town.
Speaking of their community, there’s a new sheriff: Jane Greene (Brooke Smith). What a mess she’s inherited.
At home Norman isn’t happy with “how things are.” He and mother aren’t seeing eye to eye, he doesn’t like that things never go how he plans. More than that the two of them argue about dresses like the wild maniacs they are. And nothing feels better once Sheriff Greene comes poking around to meet Norman. Jim Blackwell, the man who came to kill him, has skipped on his parole; she found the Bates address in his belongings. She worries Alex, who’s now escaped, might be coming to cause problems. Or that there’s something both Blackwell and Alex are after, perhaps in the house, in the motel. Not good for Norman and mother to have an officer of the law snooping. She’s all good intentions. Just that… he’s a psychopath, guilty of so, so many things.
And now this ratchets up the tension between mother and son. He doesn’t even tell her about her former husband and the escape. Knowing deep down that Romero is on the way to their home.
Norma: “So I shouldve just let Jim Blackwell kill you?”
Norman: “Maybe
Norma: “Thats depressing


The more he and mother fight, the further Norman drifts towards Madeleine Loomis (Isabelle McNally). He actually brings her some of mother’s dresses in an unnerving gesture; scary because he not only has interest in Madeleine, she looks similar to Norma and that’s what propels his desire most of all. There’s a great, sly little Psycho reference when she brings out his shower curtains, remarking that he must go through a lot of those; he casually replies that “Yes, yes. We do actually.” Can’t help believe that’s a nod to Hitchcock and the infamous shower scene, as Janet Leigh and the curtains alike were slashed apart.
Later on at home Norman has a talk with Chick. He doesn’t want him around the house so much. Chick feels a bit betrayed, by how much he’s done for them. Not so smart for Norman to turn his back on a guy who’s seen all the secrets. I see this having serious repercussions.
Romero makes a fake ambulance call outside an apartment building. When the EMTS arrive prepared for an overdose, he slips into the rig and gets himself a few necessities to treat his wounds. Then he does a bit of homemade surgery on the buck shot in his gut. Enough to keep him alive, anyways.
When Sheriff Greene snoops around more at the motel Norman starts putting his foot in his mouth. While he covers his ass, he doesn’t do it very well. Her suspicion is official at this point. Stupid Norman! Should’ve let mother do the talking. Except she’s a bit irrational herself. She hid Blackwell’s car in the woods after killing him. And the sheriff is searching for that very vehicle. Norman wants to be rid of it totally, and Norma insists it was wiped clean, et cetera.
So… what to do, what to do?


They argue. Norman almost kills mother. Things are not good inside this insane young man’s mind. Fractured into pieces is an understatement. Regardless, they decide on leaving the car and heading home for the night. One of the creepier scenes so far this season, just a strange, atmospheric tension, and the way it’s shot makes the moment all the more unsettling.
Those dresses belonging to mother fit Madeleine perfectly. This excites Norman, quite a bit. Or makes him happy. Or makes him want to bang his mom; who knows?! Still this precipitates a dinner between Madeleine and Norman. I wonder if it’ll get romantic. Possibly murderous, if things don’t go the way mother would want.
Chick gets a visit from Norman at his trailer. The kid wants advice, on hot wiring a car. He wants to get rid of that car in the woods. But Chick knows something’s up: “What did you do?” He’ll help, only if Norman tells him the truth. He gets it. Not the full truth: the truth about mother.
At the house, Norman tells Norma about his dinner with Madeleine. She’s not thrilled. Yet off he goes, no matter. When he shows up at her place she’s wearing one of mother’s dresses. Good lord! This is getting scarier with every passing scene. What particularly gets me is that in Hitchcock’s Psycho, Sam Loomis (played in the series by Austin Nichols) is a divorced hardware store owner. Will the history be rewritten to make Sam a widowed man instead of divorce? I worry poor Madeleine’s not long for this world.
Pic 7Madeleine and Norman make cake together, listening to Daniel Johnston’s “True Love Will Find You in the End” and falling into each other’s arms. Suddenly, mother shows up. Norman has a vision of cutting Madeleine’s throat, or of mother doing it; the blood, the body on the floor. None of it actually happened, though. He runs home. He can’t find Norma anywhere. He finds only the remnants of a man living alone.
Is this an acceptance of his psychosis? No, it’s only a deepening sense of it coming on stronger and stronger. Mother’s will is becoming terrifyingly merged with that of Norman’s, and this means nothing but more bloodshed.
Pic 8A great, great episode that had me on the edge of my seat near the end! Loving this season. Such a fascinating way to go out, plus lots of awesome adapted writing coming out of what Bloch and Hitchcock each did. Excited for more.

Bates Motel – Season 5, Episode 3: “Bad Blood”

A&E’s Bates Motel
Season 5, Episode 3: “Bad Blood”
Directed by Sarah Boyd
Written by Tom Szentgyorgyi

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Convergence of the Twain” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Hidden” – click here
Pic 1Caleb (Kenny Johnson) is waking up chained to the basement floor after being surprised by Norman (Freddie Highmore), dressed as Norma (Vera Farmiga). He wakes to his sister speaking to him. Only, it’s not, of course. It’s his nephew, dressed as his sister. So awfully creepy. Then there’s whatever Norman plans on doing with his uncle Caleb.
Could be a brutal end for him.
Pic 2And what about Chick (Ryan Hurst)? He knows all the secrets. He’s bore witness to the blonde wig, the odd way Norman sways across the room when he’s in his mother’s clothes/skin. They’ve formed a tenuous bond. I only wonder what Chick is getting out of this, other than maybe a bit of revenge on Caleb along the way. For now, he’s staying at the Bates house to protect Norma/Norman against the nasty uncle downstairs. Hmm. A truly strange situation, all around.
Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) is being transferred from prison, and he’s another one I wonder about – he has a card up his sleeve. When they make a stop for gas and a bathroom break, he takes his chance and enacts a plan for escape.
At home Norman and his mother keep on coexisting, as best they can. She takes care of him as usual. In their creepy kind of way. He doesn’t remember that Caleb is downstairs, but she does, and she tries keeping him away from the basement. Always trying to control him. But of course Chick is still kicking around, curious about how Norman navigates his fugue state. He reveals he knows about Norma, and another tenuous bond with the other half of Norman is made.
Chick: “Were all in this sideshow together. And then we die.”
Caleb remembers his childhood with Norma, both of them brutalised by a crazy mother. Trying to survive. They had no one but each other, and despite what came later in their lives I can understand why their bond, for a time, was extremely strong. None of it matters now with Caleb chained in that basement and Chick standing guard.


Alex steals a car and then runs it off the road when he’s far enough. He makes his way back home, one mile at a time. In the meantime, Chick sits down to dinner with Norman and Norma, or y’know, one of them at least. He also brings a recorder with him. He offers to help them around the house, just for a sense of being with people after living alone so long. And what a conversation they all have together! Surreal, and crafty on Chick’s part, as well.
Later, Norman receives Madeleine Loomis (Isabelle McNally) at the motel. She clearly feels comfortable with him; bad move. But she’s having troubles with her husband, obviously. And this is a way for Norman to worm his way into her life.
In the basement Caleb hallucinates and thinks he’s hugging Norma, then her corpse. Then Norman, upstairs, finds out his uncle is trapped down there. That he’s spoken to Norma. Further than that Norman continues straddling the line between sane and utterly fucking psychopathic, as he doesn’t even understand his mother is literally dead, not just figuratively and pretending. So he heads down to talk to uncle Caleb, where mother takes over. Then both of them are hallucinating, in their own respects.
Norma: “Im sorry, Norman will probably have to kill you. I cant do it.”
Pic 5Pic 5ATrying to steal another car, Alex gets shot in the gut. What a tough, bloody journey!
Chick is continuing to record his story about the Bates family. He goes looking for a typewriter, to type up his novel. Getting ahead of himself a little on the true crime writing, though. I worry that, mixed up with the Bates’, he’s only going to get burned. Or worse.
And Norma, he had a little quality time with uncle Caleb. While thinking he was his mother. So, there are issues with his understanding: what he knows v. what mother knows. Never clear, at least for him. She wants him to kill Caleb and get this situation cauterised. Although her boy doesn’t think he can do that. Tsk, tsk, Norman – mother knows best. She advises a quick bullet to the temple.
Can he accomplish the task? We know murder’s not exactly out of his wheelhouse. He’s done plenty of heinous things before, just not all of them while fully conscious.
The answer is no – Norman can’t kill his uncle. He runs him out instead. Prompting Norma to take over and fire on Caleb. Inadvertently, Chick plays his part and accidentally runs him over in the road on the way back to the motel. Oh, shit.


Another great chapter in this last season. So many strange things converging, and now Caleb’s seemingly been taken out of the picture. Is he dead? Or just fucked up completely? Either way, Chick and Norma/Norman have their hands full with another likely corpse; at the very least, now a vegetable. Thing is, Chick has as much to lose as Norman, and their tenuous bond becomes more concrete, stuck together with blood.

Bates Motel – Season 5, Episode 2: “The Convergence of the Twain”

A&E’s Bates Motel
Season 5, Episode 2: “The Convergence of the Twain”
Directed by Sarah Boyd
Written by Alyson Evans & Steve Kornacki

* For a recap & review of the Season 5 premiere, “Dark Paradise” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Bad Blood” – click here
Pic 1Norman (Freddie Highmore) is heading up to the prison. He and Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) have things they need to discuss. And that surprises the former sheriff. He isn’t exactly happy to see his former stepson. Especially considering the guy he sent to see Norma was supposed to kill him. Lots of tense mindgames going on right now. And outright threats, too. While Norman gloats, Alex makes clear he isn’t going away.
But on life goes for Mr. Bates. Another day, another act for him to perform.
In other news, Caleb (Kenny Johnson) has left. Emma (Olivia Cooke) tells Dylan (Max Theriot) she talked to him about their worries with him around. “No secrets,” she tells him. Dylan understands. Although he’s rightfully conflicted. He still has his concerns over what happened to Emma’s mother. Whether Norman did something terrible.
And Caleb, he’s back at the motel. Not knowing the truth of what’s happened there since he’s been gone. Nobody is around, so he lets himself inside the house. He quickly sees something isn’t right, the place is messy and generally looks unkempt. He finds no one. He does find a book called The Lost Art of Mummification. Creepy shit, all things considered.
Pic 2In prison, Alex gets into a nasty fight with another inmate. Taking quite the beating. Because his mind is elsewhere. Being locked up is one thing, knowing your former wife – saint or no – was killed by her son is an entirely other beast. And speaking of the beast, Norman is honing his focus on Madeleine Loomis (Isabelle McNally), whom he watches from afar. She actually offers to fix him up with someone she knows. A double date with her and her husband. Although there’s definitely a weird chemistry between them. Then we see that David Davidson is her husband, Sam Loomis (Austin Nichols). Ohhh damn, he knows a little secret, and that could be a thorn in Sam’s side. Yikes!
At home Norma (Vera Farmiga) is learning French online. Might as well keep her mind active, right? Being dead can really take its toll. She senses something, and coaxes out a conversation about Romero. A little later Chick Hogan (Ryan Hurst) turns up knocking at the door with apples. And a business proposition. He’d like Norman to do a bit of taxidermy from time to time, then he’ll help sell the pieces. A partnership is born.
Caleb checks himself into a motel and finds out indirectly that Norma died. That’s rough. Devastating way to discover her supposed suicide.


Sam Loomis goes to see Norman, looking for discretion. He doesn’t wholly get what he wants. Instead, he threatens Norman. God damn, did he ever pick the wrong creepy motel manager to fuck with! As if he could know how insane Norman is, it was like a twist of fate they’ve come across one another.
No matter how unsettling the relationship between Caleb and Norma Louise, there’s still heartbreak seeing him at her grave. I don’t care. I know he’s a terrible person for what he did when they were younger. Regardless, he experiences horrible emotion having to see that Norma died while he ran away elsewhere.
Norman: “Please dont be childish, mother. Its boring.”
Out for his date, Norman plays the part of normal human being, alien amongst people in a skin suit. He asks his date all the right questions, all the while Sam stares him down, wondering if his dirty little secrets will trickle out. The two men are verbally at each other’s throats. Yet Norman is sharper, one step ahead at all times, in every way. Worse than anything mother turns up in the washroom to chastise her boy for lying about the double date dinner. Tsk, tsk, Norman. Of course he isn’t actually lying to her. She’s fucking dead. He’s only lying to himself, which is nothing new.


After getting beat up, Alex is looking to get himself out of prison. Using it as an excuse to say his life is in danger. This would get him out into the free world again. To… take care, of Norman. Like a good stepfather, whose wife the boy murdered and passed off as suicide. So messed up. Not quite as messed up as Norman, though. Who’s interested in Madeleine specifically because she looks like his mother. And that bothers Norma, even though, y’know, they’re technically the same person. So deliciously unhinged.
Seeing him become Norma in his own skin is visually interesting, also a great feat of acting on Freddie Highmore’s part. The way he embodies Norma, moving like her and taking on her mannerisms, et cetera. Amazing work. And the writing is top notch.
Meanwhile, Chick is writing it all down in one of his notebooks. Telling the story of Norman Bates. He also notices, across the bar, Caleb sitting for a drink. That’s a score left to be settled, in a massive way. But Chick knows everything about their family, the darkest of the hidden secrets. That’s a lot with which to be armed. We see that Caleb is more interested in holding Norman responsible for the death of his sister.
He goes to the house and breaks inside. But he finds nobody, again. Aside from the corpse of his dead sister in the basement. All the while Norman is running around dressed as mother. He knocks Caleb out. Right as Chick comes in to witness it all. Whoooa!


I knew this was coming and yet the way the writing manages to weave things it’s all a nice surprise. The addition of Chick as a character in the mix is an interesting one. Excited to see what happens next with him and Norman/Norma.

Bates Motel – Season 5, Episode 1: “Dark Paradise”

A&E’s Bates Motel
Season 5, Episode 1: “Dark Paradise”
Directed by Tucker Gates
Written by Kerry Ehrin

* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Convergence of the Twain” – click here
Pic 1So what’s next for Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore)? He’s done his mother Norma (Vera Farmiga) in. But mother will always live on inside him.
Well, Norman continues on much like he did before. Living in mother’s world. Except the delusion’s only gotten deeper, and we’re one step closer to the territory Alfred Hithcock explored nearly 50 years ago at this point. Poor Norma, he acts as if Norma’s still alive and well. They go about their day, eating breakfast, talking about the chores Norman has been finishing down at the motel. He’s convinced himself mother is only hiding, she isn’t dead. She had to get away from all the trouble of her life. Amazing what the tortured mind can do, isn’t it?
Pic 2And then there’s Sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell). I guess former sheriff. Now that he’s doing a stint in prison for being mixed up in a little too much corrupt business. That’s one of the great parts about Bates Motel: no characters, even the relatively better ones compared to others, are perfect; none of them are morally superior, they’re merely different shades of grey.
Norman runs into a shop and meets a woman named Madeleine Loomis (Isabelle McNally). He, of course, rambles on about his mother. To anyone who doesn’t know him like the audience it sounds sweet. To us, it’s awfully creepy. Worse, he has some guy’s wallet. A guest from the motel? Or another grave? Hard to tell, though I assume the latter. He doesn’t remember where he got it, so he asks mother. She plays dumb and clearly knows something.
Norman: “Do you ever have the feeling that youve had the same nightmare over and over again, but that you cant remember it, you just remember the feeling of it?”
Norma: “Nope
In their new home, Emma (Olivia Cooke) and Dylan (Max Theriot) have a little baby girl, and they’re celebrating Emma’s birthday in their beautiful house. Things are wonderful; Dylan’s been promoted. Then up shows Caleb (Kenny Johnson) at the door, throwing all sorts of emotions into the mix.


Trying to find out where the wallet came from, Norman searches the motel for clues. He keeps detailed records of his whereabouts, monitoring his blackouts. One of which coincides with a receipt from the man’s wallet. Uh oh.
A man clearly at the Bates Motel to have discrete sex checks in as David Davidson. So sneaky Norman puts him in Room 1. You know why, he made that little peephole for himself, when he was spying on mother and Alex. Now he has a front row seat to the sex lives of others. Until mother calls him on the phone, interrupting his nasty little masturbatory fantasy. Even in death she controls his libido.
Added to the fact there’s luminol ordered using his credit card, something else he doesn’t remember; something mother absolutely knows about while acting like she knows nothing. They sit and have nice dinners, but underneath it’s so volatile. He can’t even bring up Madeleine and her help with the paint without upsetting their delicate balance. Knowing where Norman ends up in Psycho, it’s interesting to see things bubbling up right now between him and his dead mother. Because we know it’s about to get a hell of a lot worse.
And scarier still, Norman goes to the basement. To see his real mother, where she stays preserved, or sort of, sitting there like a doll. So at once he’s delusional and also lucid at times – the worst type of psychopath.


The next day Madeleine brings Norman some paint and brushes to sample colours. There’s an obvious chemistry between them, though she has no idea how terrifying he is under the facade. I can see a tension brewing, whether that’s sexual I don’t know yet. I’m thinking there’ll be problems with her husband down the line.
Caleb’s trying to do his best fitting in with Dylan and Emma again. Although they’re ready to give him a chance, particularly once she finds out that Caleb helped with money for her surgery. She tells him what it meant, to help save her life. On the other hand, she asks him to leave. Because of who he is, as an uncle and father simultaneously to Dylan; she doesn’t want this affecting her own child. A tough but necessary move.
Mother and Norman have an argument out in front of the motel. She isn’t happy that he’s going out to a small business owner meeting, one that Madeleine told him about. So she hauls him up to the house, to the basement. To the freezer. Where she shows him the body of the man whose wallet he’s been carrying around. They killed him. Even when neither of them fully understand who’s controlling whom in their situation. Regardless, it’s bad.
Norman: “Well, its not like weve never done this before.”


So mother and son go about ridding themselves of the corpse. And while we watch them both take care of business, it’s really just Normal lugging the body around, struggling it into the trunk, and everything else. All to Etta James singing “At Last” during their dark family outing. A nice canoe ride at night, a body dumping. Perfect for the two of them.
Except Norman still doesn’t understand why the man was trying to kill him. Why mother had to take him down. She loves to hide secrets.
Then the man’s cell rings. An inmate from prison calling – it’s Alex. He’s trying to put an end to Norman. Only now, the young man knows.


What a great opener to Season 5! Loving it already. So much in store, including the storyline that will connect us to the Hitchcock classic.
Next up is “The Convergence of the Twain” and I’m expecting big, creepy things!

One of the Most Underrated Horror Sequels: Psycho II

Psycho II. 1983.  Dir. Richard Franklin. Screenplay by Tom Holland.
Starring Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, Meg Tilly, Robert Loggia, Dennis Franz, and Hugh Gilin. Universal Pictures.
Rated 18+. 113 minutes.
Horror/Mystery/Thriller

★★★★

For my review of the 1960 classic Psycho on Blu ray, click here.  For the sequel to this film, Psycho III, click here.

PsychoIIThere’s no debate to be had: Anthony Perkins IS Norman Bates. The way Perkins inhabits the role in the first two Psycho films is amazing. It’s particularly interesting to see Norman in Psycho II quite some time after his institutionalization, and to see how he is a little older, maybe a little wiser, or maybe not.

What we get is not only a story about Norman trying to re-enter society, but also a sort of look into what it’s like when any violent mentally ill criminal is deemed fit to be integrated back into a normal life after having undergone various psychiatric treatments. By no means a statement, but merely an examination; we sway back and forth with the story, as we’re not quite sure if Norman has really been rehabilitated, or if Mother is up to her old tricks again. It’s just as psychologically trying as the original Psycho, but not in the way it feels like Hitchcock; it simply frays on our nerves, as we try to figure Norman out, and events push us to one side then back to the other.
Psycho II 1983 movie pic4A particular scene where Norman is handed a large kitchen knife to cut a sandwich for a young girl who befriends him (very similar to his sandwich dinner with Marion Crane from the first film) becomes a very nervous few moments; we watch as Norman battles his subconscious, or possibly Mother whispering in his ears about how nice it might be to kill his young dinner guest. I enjoyed how they played with the idea of someone toying with Norman, but also with Mother being very present still in his mind.
Psycho II 1983 movie pic7One of the things I really enjoy about this sequel is the fact it relies on more than just Perkins as Norman Bates to really drive things. While the original Psycho did start off with Marion Crane before shifting to Norman, this movie gives us a couple other performances to enjoy as well.
Both Vera Miles and Meg Tilly did great jobs here with their characters. Tilly, as Mary Loomis, was just enough of an innocent type to sort of be drawn in by Bates’ charm while also still remaining a bit of an independent and tough young woman. I liked how Mary Loomis was sympathetic towards Norman because it created this tension where you sort of teeter on the edge of wondering exactly what his intentions towards her are really. Their relationship is one of the real interesting parts about this underrated sequel.
Vera Miles, playing Lila Loomis, is spectacular. She is every bit a wicked and wild old woman here. Her character fight very well with the plot, as you’d naturally expect some of Norman’s victims to have family who would care enough to protest his release. Miles is a fantastic actress. She really plays a great character to provide some of the new plot developments here in Psycho II, and had they cast a lesser actress in the part it may not have worked as well. Miles gives us enough venom in her portrayal of Lila Loomis to really sell the part.
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All in all, I would say this movie is a 4 out of 5 stars. The plot is really great, and relevant to modern society (how many killers are let loose on the streets again because they got an insanity plea & supposedly ‘served their time’ in an institution somewhere?  Plenty!). Perkins, again and as always, is a revelation as Norman Bates. As I’m also a fan of the third movie in the series, Psycho III (see my review here), each time Perkins plays the character he seems to hone Norman into something more intricate and full of little idiosyncrasies. A treat to see the same actor come back to a character and not only do a good job again, but also add something more to the character with each turn.

Psycho-II-Richard-FranklinMy only reason for not giving the film closer to a perfect rating would be the whole situation with the boy getting killed in the cellar. It’s hard for me to believe that even though his young lady friend lies for him that the police would not take Norman into custody until they figured out some more about the situation. I mean, the man has been in psychiatric confinement for 22 years after killing a few people, he goes back to live in the exact same house where all the violence really happened, and then when someone gets murdered right in the cellar of this house they just let him stay free walking around on the word of some waitress? That’s my only problem with the film, and it’s not something that ruined it for me, just a little nitpick.
Other than that, I love Psycho II, and it’s criminally underrated especially when many horror franchises keep churning out sequels that get worse and worse ever year. This one is a keeper. A lot of people expected a direct copy of Hitchcock in some sense with this sequel, and unfortunately that was never going to happen. Nobody is able to replicate Hitchcock, even those who closely emulate him with their own personal style, and it’s silly to want another movie exactly like the first one. This is a very natural, organic sequel. It plays well both as a horror film, and also as a real psychological thriller, too. I really had no idea exactly what was going to happen until the very end – speaking of which, the end is also one of the great aspects of the film. It not only gives us a little surprise, setting things up for a further look at Norman Bates, it opts to make more of the story and expand things. No longer is Norman tied completely to the events of the original film, or his own story as we know it so to speak, and it kind of opens up the whole concept for further plots. Of course there’s Psycho III, but even if they hadn’t gone on to make another one I’m still satisfied with the little twists, and most certainly how thrilling the climax of the film came off.

You can do much worse in terms of horror sequels – this is one of the best, and absolutely one of the more underrated sequels in any of the big horror franchises. Norman Bates is an incredible character. Psycho II does an admirable job with his legacy. Plus, there’s a bit more hack and slash going on here – sure to appease any genre enthusiast.
Highly recommend you seek this out and enjoy it to the fullest!

Psycho: Alfred Hitchcock & the Birth of the Slasher

Psycho. 1960. Dir.  Alfred Hitchcock. Written by Joseph Stefano; based on the novel by Robert Bloch.
Starring Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Martin Balsam, and John McIntire. Universal Studios Home Entertainment.
Rated PG. 109 minutes.
Horror/Mystery/Thriller

★★★★★ (Film)
★★★★★ (Blu ray release)

For my review of the sequel, Psycho II, click here.
For my review of the third installment in the franchise, Psycho III, click here.

For those who don’t know, Psycho tells the tale of Marion Crane who decides to take off on a whim with $40,000 trusted to her by her boss. While tired on the road, Maron stops off at the Bates Motel to get a room for the night. There, she meets a young man named Norman Bates; he lives up on the hill in the big house next to the motel. Norman seems fine, albeit a bit quirky, so Marion even has a low key supper with him at the motel.
However, Norman isn’t quite fine. See, Norman lives with his mother, just the two of them, and their relationship is, well – a bit odd to say the least. Once Marion goes missing, her sister, lover, and the police start sniffing around, and Norman starts to see a little more traffic at the Bates Motel – much to his dismay.

4714189672_84517b7ab2_o1-450x876This was my first introduction to Alfred Hitchcock. It’s funny – the movie is rated PG, directed by one of the most famous (arguably the most famous) filmmakers of all-time, contains definitely the most famous murder scene ever filmed if not the most famous scene period, and it’s classified as a horror.
In fact, a lot of people would say Psycho is the most influential horror film of all time, giving rise to the modern slasher in some respects (you can’t totally give this film all the credit because other films like Peeping Tom, and much later John Carpenter’s Halloween, really were a large part of that as well).

I just find it amazing how Hitchcock was able to put such a disturbing story on film, including the infamous shower scene (though the scene itself really isn’t graphic especially in terms of modern audiences and how desensitized we all are from not only film but the barrage of insane videos we now see on everything from CNN to YouTube), and yet still keep the rating PG. Of course, the ratings system has changed a little between now and then. It’s still rather amazing.
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The story of Psycho itself is incredible. I continually find it exciting even though I’ve seen it dozens of times, I know how things will play out, and yet viewing after viewing it holds up. I still feel a rush of panic for Norman (even though I clearly shouldn’t – a testament to both Bloch’s novel and Hitchcock’s filmmaking) as he tries to clean up Marion Crane’s room after Mother has had her fun. Just the way Perkins rushes around and frantically tries to cover things up. Just thinking about the time it was written, the time it was set, I love to imagine what it must’ve been like for serial killers pre-media frenzy surrounding people like Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, the Green River Killer, et cetera. Poor Norman was ahead of his time. He didn’t know how these things were supposed to go. Watching him try to navigate the rough terrain of being a killer while still obviously being a fragile boy, almost a man-child, is really good stuff. It’s a disturbing tale, but Norman really does elicit both fear in us, as well as some form of pity; even on the most base of levels. And just the way in which Marion and Norman end up meeting, a real chance moment in time, is brilliant. The first time I saw the film, I was really surprised at how their two storylines converged, and suddenly it all became about Norman. Wonderful storytelling. No wonder Hitchcock was drawn to Bloch’s novel. Stefano really took the novel and turned into something his own, which Hitchcock in turn worked very well with; their picture of Norman Bates, as opposed to Bloch’s, turned the character into a much more sympathetic type person, and this really worked for the film’s plot quite well.

The entire film is one of those truly beautiful collaborative efforts. Everything here comes together to make a perfect movie. The cinematography, the sound, the script – I love it. Hitchcock weaved an intricate film here out of what could’ve been a simple effort from another lesser filmmaker.
For instance, on the Blu ray release from Universal there is a feature which looks at the infamous shower scene how it is presented in the finished film, and also a look at the scene without its music. Right there, it is so perfectly evident Psycho could not have been what it was if it hadn’t used all of its elements together to create the fear, shock, and tension. While the shower scene is still very disturbing without the score over top, there’s something extra that comes along with the score. In the quiet, you can hear Janet Leigh breathing, you hear the water falling from the shower head, all of it. With the score, you watch everything happen while the orchestral score behind the scene pounds out, creepy and loud, reinforcing all the stabs, the gasps, everything. Works so god damn well it’s fiendish.
4021As a film, Psycho is a perfect, flawless work of art. It isn’t hype. This is not a film you hear about all the time, being raved about and drooled over, just because it’s by Alfred Hitchcock, or just because it is considered classic. This is a magnificent piece of work, all around. There is no hype – what you see is what you get. Hitchcock was a master, no doubt. This film, while influential and all that, is just a cracking good piece of movie history. Full stop.

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One of the most famous dissolve shots in the history of film

The Blu ray release from Universal Studios Home Entertainment is one of the better titles sitting on my shelf. It is packed to the brim with extras. Though I don’t care for the Truffaut interview (I think his films are wonderful but his opinions are often divisive in a negative way and, in my humble opinion, sort of bullshit at least when it comes to the original novel Psycho by Bloch), the rest of the features here are just so sweet.
There are the typical Making Of featurettes, however, the major one here goes through everything from the story, how it was adapted and found, et cetera, to pre-production, production, and post – the whole nine yards; it’s a 90-minutes documentary that is totally worth the time to watch. There’s a nice feature about the sound of the film, including how they restored everything for the Blu ray. My favourite, though, is the Shower Scene breakdown I mentioned before – you get to see the scene back-to-back in its finished form with the scene having the score taken out, as well as great little storyboards by Saul Bass. These are absolutely brilliant pieces of extras to include. Fascinating stuff. The commentary is done by Stephen Rebello, author of Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of ‘Psycho’.
All in all, this release deserves every single bit of 5 out of 5 stars. There’s no way it deserves any less; it needs more. There are enough features here to keep you long busy after purchasing Psycho. On top of that, the transfer is pristine, and you’ll marvel at how beautiful it looks in glorious black and white.

I recommend every fan of this movie, every Hitchcock fan, go get this Blu ray now, sit down, and love every last single solitary, picturesque moment of it. There is nothing like this film, even today, even when so many other great films are made. Psycho itself is a classic, and always will be. It deserves to be remembered until the end of human existence – it’s one of those films.

Read my review for the second sequel to the original, the underrated Psycho III.

Psycho III: Norman, Still Crazy After All These Years

Psycho III.  1986. Dir. Anthony Perkins. Screenplay by Charles Edward Pogue; based on characters by Robert Bloch.
Starring Anthony Perkins, Diana Scarwid, Jeff Fahey, Roberta Maxwell, Hugh Gillin, and Lee Garlington. Universal Pictures.
Rated 18+. 93 minutes.
Horror/Mystery/Thriller

★★★★

If you haven’t yet – read my Blu ray review for Alfred Hitchcock’s original 1960 classic Psycho.

With Anthony Perkins directing a Psycho sequel and also serving as Norman Bates, I can’t imagine anything better. A highly underrated entry into this franchise. This absolutely does not get enough credit. To no surprise from me – I loved the first sequel to the original, and a lot of people despise it, so I guess Norman just isn’t appreciated anymore.
How sad…
Psycho III 1986 movie pic2When Norman inevitably kills his new motel clerk Duane (a young Jeff Fahey), we finally see truly for the first time how Norma’s scarred son has been compelled to kill by his dominant mother. He yells at her that he has the same terrible blood in his veins, and it makes him do what he does. Perkins uses Woody Woodpecker on the television interestingly, as Norman cries to his mother to stop laughing at him (which of course is Woody’s iconic laugh), and it’s so very evident more than ever before how his world is a mixture of reality with a heavy dose of surreal experiences; we’ve already known this, but for the first time it’s almost spelled out in front of us, as he can’t even tell the difference between his mother’s laugh (one he no doubt knows all too well), and a cartoon bird on the television.

There are so many little pieces like that which make Psycho III better than its low ratings and generally negative reviews lead on.
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Norman finally meets someone to love in a disheartened girl who has left her convent where she was poised to become a nun by the name of Maureen; unfortunately for Norma at first, she reminds him of Marion Crane.
There are two really interesting bits Perkins throws in involving Maureen. The first is when Norman sees her in the diner, and she leans down towards the floor behind the stool she sits on, but he can only picture Marion laying dead in the shower after he and mother killed her. Soon he snaps back to reality, and leaves the diner quickly. Maureen later ends up at the motel, and tries to kill herself by slitting her wrists in the bathtub. Norman is poised to kill her, all dressed up like mother again, but he finds her with her wrists open in the water, and Maureen does not see Mrs. Bates: she sees the Virgin Mary holding a silver crucifix where the knife should be.

One of the best moments come when Norman accidentally nudges Maureen over the stairs in his house, and she slips down over them only to fall against a statue with a sharp object protruding out of it. The statue is of Cupid, and Perkins zooms in on the arrow after it has killed Maureen, which drips blood; Cupid has literally shot her, and in a way it has also pierced Norman by taking away the only woman he ever loved. Here, Cupid shows us how everything in Norman’s world is backwards; especially love.
Psycho2My only complaint about the film is at the very end when Norman sits in a police car being taken away, and he hauls out a little treat he was hiding to caress, as he gives a look very reminiscent to his final scene in the original Psycho. I find it a little hard to believe the police wouldn’t have found this on him (I won’t tell you what it is), but then again, it’s a horror movie, and a certain amount of belief has to be suspended at times to properly enjoy one. Overall, it didn’t ruin anything for me.

4 out of 5 stars for a great entry into the Psycho franchise. People say that Anthony Perkins tried to imitate Hitchcock in this film, but I frankly cannot see it. There’s a huge difference in visual style, and a very glaring difference in storytelling.
Norman is a little more slasher in this film, but why shouldn’t he be? At the end of Psycho II, we are introduced to someone who could be Norman’s real mother right before he kills her, so naturally the man is going to be even worse off than ever before with shocking information like that. Of course, the story is a long, winding road, and that isn’t every side, but isn’t a family history like Norman’s bound to drive ANYONE a little mad?
Psycho III 1986 movie pic014After all, we all go a little mad sometimes…