Horror Movie Review: Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990)

The fourth and final entry in the original Psycho series before the ill-fated remake looks to wrap up the Norman Bates story once and for all. You can read our review of the original movie here, the sequel here and the third movie here.

Serving as a sequel and prequel, the story sees a rehabilitated Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) effectively living a normal life. He married his psychiatrist and they are expecting a child, however he is concerned that the kid might inherit his mental illness.

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He calls a radio talk show hosted by Fran Ambrose (CCH Pounder) where she and her guest Dr. Richmond (Warren Frost) are discussing matricide. Using the alias of ‘Ed’, Norman begins to tell his story.

Told in flashback form and slightly out of order, we see the problems that Norman had with his mother seemingly starting when he was six years old and his father died.

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Norma Bates (Olivia Hussey) seems to suffer from schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder. Issues that worsen as the years go by. She makes life very difficult for a young Norman (Henry Thomas) punishing him in humiliating ways during his teenage years.

Things go too far though when Norma meets a new man who she uses to embarrass Norman any chance she gets. Driven mad with jealousy, Norman’s first kills are coming…

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Psycho IV: The Beginning is a movie that we simply didn’t need. We know all about Norman’s beginnings so seeing them play out, while often fun, wasn’t going to add much to the overall story arc.

Confusingly too, this sequel seems to ignore Psycho II and Psycho III making a mess of the continuity. Norman’s release here seems to be tied to the events of the first film and not what followed.

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The flashbacks can be enjoyed though as the acting is very good and the way in which they’re told, paced well. However, it begins to fall apart once we reach the apex of modern Norman’s story resulting in a pretty lacklustre finale.

It’s a pity as up until the last 10-20 minutes, it’s an enjoyable watch. Perkins doesn’t have to stretch his acting muscles here but he is still a commanding presence. Henry Thomas as his younger self does well exuding a child-like innocence that builds in madness but the standout is Olivia Hussey. She does a wonderful job of portraying a caring loving mother one moment and a devious psychotic manipulator the next.

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Scenes where she makes Norman rub perfume on her body before playfully wrestling with him are disturbing. Her sudden switch mid-wrestle to abusing him and accusing him of being filth is worse.

By the end you can’t help but think she might have deserved it!

Far removed from the slasher style of part 2 and 3, Psycho IV at least tries to bring it back around to the tension based style of the original and while it doesn’t even come close it’s a better movie then you might expect.

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  • Carl Fisher

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Psycho IV: The Beginning
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