Have A Stab At These 20 Terrifying Facts About Psycho II
Though they’re not all bad, horror franchises are famous for churning out repetitive and subpar sequels. Still, whilst that may be true of some of the films bearing the Psycho name, we have to admit to being big fans of Psycho II.
And when we say ‘being massive fans of’ we also mean ‘absolutely terrified by,’ because the first time we watched Psycho II on VHS, it gave us the chills way more than many of the other horror offerings of the time.
Released in 1983 and starring the brilliant Anthony Perkins, Psycho II follows Norman Bates as he is released from a psychiatric hospital and returns, ominously, to the Bates Motel and the sinister house he grew up in. Here are some facts about this terrifying 80s horror sequel.
20. It bears no relation to the 1982 novel of the same name
Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 classic Psycho has long been regarded one of the true benchmarks in horror cinema.
The film was adapted from the novel of the same name, which was written by Robert Bloch and published in 1959.
Similarly, when Psycho II arrived in 1983, it followed a Bloch novel of the same name published the previous year – but this time the process of adaptation was very different.
Psycho II the movie bears no relation to the Psycho II novel, beyond the title, the return of central character Norman Bates, and the fact that it’s set two decades after the events of the original.
Studio Universal were in fact appalled by Bloch’s Psycho II, an extreme horror intended by the author as a satire of the slasher movie conventions that had become commonplace in Hollywood since the original Psycho.
19. Screenwriter Tom Holland went on to direct Fright Night and Child’s Play
When Universal decided against using Robert Bloch’s novel as the basis for their Psycho II, they needed someone to pen an all-new narrative for their big screen sequel.
The person who landed the job was Tom Holland, a writer and actor who had previously provided the scripts for horror movie The Beast Within and cult thriller Class of 1984.
As well as penning the Psycho II screenplay, Holland also appears in the film as an actor, playing Deputy Norris.
In the years following Psycho II, Holland would break into directing with two 80s horror classics, 1985’s Fright Night and 1988’s Child’s Play.
Both these later films owe a clear debt to Psycho director Alfred Hitchcock – most notably Fright Night, whose central conceit (boy suspects new neighbour is a vampire) is reminiscent of Hitchcock’s Rear Window.
18. The filmmakers got the blessing of Alfred Hitchcock’s daughter
Legendary director Alfred Hitchcock died at the age of 80 in April 1980, three years before Psycho II hit screens.
Psycho II was the first Hollywood feature from Australian filmmaker Richard Franklin (Patrick, Roadgames), who actually met Alfred Hitchcock on the set of the director’s 1969 film Topaz.
The 1983 Psycho sequel was produced by Hilton Green and Bernard Schwartz, the former of whom was assistant director on the original Psycho.
When Green became concerned that Hitchcock would not have approved of the sequel, he contacted the late director’s daughter Patricia.
Happily, Hitchcock’s daughter alleviated the producer’s concerns, declaring that her father “would have loved it.”
17. Christopher Walken was considered to play Norman Bates when Anthony Perkins initially said no
Naturally, the Psycho II filmmakers wanted original Norman Bates actor Anthony Perkins to reprise the role he made famous.
However, Perkins originally turned down the opportunity to play Bates for a second time, at least in part because the sequel was initially planned as a TV movie.
When it looked like Perkins was out of the picture, Christopher Walken was considered to replace him in the role.
However, Perkins changed his mind after reading the script, saying “when I received Tom Holland’s script, I liked it very much. It was really Norman’s story.”
The return of the original star also prompted studio Universal to upgrade Psycho II to a full-blown theatrical production, rather than a film made for television.
16. The Bates house is the exact same set from the original film
Due to it being considered something of a cinematic treasure, Psycho’s original Bates House set was still standing on the Universal Studios lot after 23 years.
Happily, this meant the Psycho II crew were able to utilise the iconic property from the 1960 classic when shooting the sequel.
Sadly, the original Bates Motel set (which the creepy old house overlooks) was no longer standing, so had to be recreated from scratch.
A number of props from Hitchcock’s classic were found by set designers, however, and these were utilised in the sequel.
Props from the 1960 original which appear in the 1983 sequel include the stuffed owl and raven, as well as the bedroom fireplace.
15. The producers wanted Jamie Lee Curtis to play Mary
As the original Psycho famously starred Janet Leigh, it’s hardly surprising that the producers of Psycho II hoped to cast her daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis, in the key role of Mary.
Curtis’ family heritage played a big part in her landing her breakthrough role in 1978’s groundbreaking slasher movie Halloween.
Curtis also had some history with Psycho II director Richard Franklin, with whom she had worked on 1981’s Roadgames.
However, for reasons unknown her involvement in Psycho II did not come to pass, perhaps because by this point in her career Curtis was trying to move away from horror.
1983 saw Curtis move in a different direction with a scene-stealing role in comedy Trading Places, alongside Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd.
14. The name of Meg Tilly’s character is a sly reference to the original film
The key supporting role of Mary ultimately went to Meg Tilly, who at the time was a 22-year-old dancer-turned-actress.
While this character is (spoiler warning!) ultimately revealed to be the daughter of the original Psycho’s Sam Loomis and Lila Crane, Psycho II sees her initially use an alias.
Mary is introduced to Norman as Mary Samuels – a name that might be familiar to more observant viewers of the original Psycho.
‘Mary Samuels’ is also used as an alias by Janet Leigh’s Marion Crane in the 1960 film; she uses the false name on signing in to the Bates Motel.
It’s also that bit closer to the name of Leigh’s character as portrayed in the original 1959 novel Psycho, in which Mary is her given name rather than Marion.
13. More characters from 1960’s Psycho were originally meant to return
As well as Anthony Perkins reprising the role of Norman Bates, two other actors from the original Psycho returned for Psycho II.
The most notable of these is Vera Miles, who once again takes the role of Lila Loomis (nee Crane), the sister of Janet Leigh’s murdered Marion Crane, and the mother of Meg Tilly’s Mary.
Psycho II also sees the return of Virginia Gregg (pictured below) as the voice of Norman’s mother (although Gregg does not receive screen credit for this in either film).
Originally, Psycho II might have been even more of a cast reunion, as the original script also included the characters of Sam Loomis, Sheriff Chambers and Dr Richmond.
However, due to the unavailability of the original actors, Chambers and Richmond were rewritten as new characters, whilst Sam Loomis was written out of the film altogether.
12. The original Psycho shower head was stolen before the Psycho II shower scene was shot
Psycho II opens with a direct lift of the most famous scene from the 1960 original: the shower scene, in which Janet Leigh’s Marion Crane meets her shocking demise.
It was inevitable, then, that Psycho II would in some way try to recreate that moment with Meg Tilly’s Mary – although her character gets out of the scene alive.
Originally, it was planned that this sequence (for which Tilly had a body double on the more explicit shots) would make use of another prop brought back from Psycho: the shower itself.
Unfortunately, the shower head was stolen from the set, meaning a similar-looking replacement had to be found at short notice.
Not that this is too big a problem from a logical standpoint: Psycho II’s shower scene takes place in the Bates house itself, as opposed to a motel room as in the original Psycho, so the showers wouldn’t necessarily be identical.
11. Anthony Perkins’ stuttering delivery of ‘cutlery’ came from an accident in rehearsal
From the moment we first see Norman Bates being declared sane and released back into society, it’s a question of when – rather than if – he will snap once more.
As such, a lot of mundane actions we see Norman perform through Psycho II carry a great deal of weight: most notably when the moment calls for him to pick up a knife.
In an early scene with Meg Tilly’s Mary, Perkins noticeably stammers when using the word “cutlery.”
This line delivery originated in an early table read of the script, at which point Perkins happened to stammer the line entirely by accident.
Director Richard Franklin loved it, and insisted that Perkins deliver the line the exact same way when it came time to shoot the scene.
10. Alfred Hitchcock’s silhouette appears in one scene
Psycho II contains a number of references and nods to the original film’s famed director, the late Alfred Hitchcock.
Director Richard Franklin deliberately includes a number of shots that are identical to ones that Hitchcock used in his Psycho.
Perhaps the most obvious Hitchcock in-joke comes when the great director’s famously rounded silhouette is clearly visible, when Norman and Mary first go into Norman’s mother’s room.
This is Psycho II’s way of including a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from Hitchcock, something the director famously made a point of doing in his films (take the moment in the original Psycho, pictured below).
This became such a signature move for the filmmaker that, whenever any director makes a similar cameo in their own film, it’s often referred to as a ‘Hitchcock’.
9. Anthony Perkins’ son plays the young Norman in the film
Speaking of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearances in Psycho II, the sequel also features a very brief cameo from a certain Oz Perkins.
As you might have guessed based on the surname, Oz Perkins (credited in the film by his full name, Osgood) is the son of Norman Bates actor Anthony Perkins.
The younger Perkins appears as a young Norman Bates in Psycho II, but only in a doorknob reflection during the flashback to his mother’s poisoning.
Oz was nine years old when Psycho II hit screens, and it was his first screen credit; his subsequent films as an actor include Six Degrees of Separation, Wolf and Legally Blonde.
Oz Perkins has also enjoyed success as a writer and director, most notably with 2016’s I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, and the upcoming Gretel and Hansel.
8. Anthony Perkins asked for Meg Tilly to be fired halfway through filming
When Meg Tilly was cast as Mary, it was only her fourth feature film role. Having not long since been forced to abandon her dancing career due to an injury, Tilly was still relatively new to acting at the time.
However, Tilly (sister of fellow actress Jennifer Tilly) had never even seen the original Psycho before signing up to appear in the sequel.
As such, the young actress apparently did not understand why so much attention was being given to Anthony Perkins on the set of Psycho II.
Perkins overheard Tilly complaining about this on set, and subsequently refused to speak to her afterwards.
The film’s lead actor even requested that Tilly be replaced halfway through filming, but his wish was not granted.
7. A rejected piece of Jerry Goldsmith’s Psycho II music later wound up in Twilight Zone: The Movie
While Psycho II went to great lengths to bring back a lot of the original film’s most iconic elements, one perhaps surprising omission was Bernard Herrmann’s chilling score.
Though Herrmann himself passed away in 1975, director Richard Franklin was given free rein to use the unmistakable themes the late composer created for 1960’s original Psycho.
However, Franklin decided against this, instead commissioning an entirely new musical score from another hugely respected film composer: Jerry Goldsmith.
Even so, one piece Goldsmith composed for Psycho II – intended as a theme for Norman Bates – was rejected by the director.
This rejected piece would ultimately by used in Kick the Can, Steven Spielberg’s chapter in the troubled 1983 anthology film Twilight Zone: The Movie.
6. The film’s poster was originally a Christmas card for the cast and crew
The poster for Psycho II depicts the ominous final shot of the film, with Norman standing in front of the Bates house, overlaid by the film’s title and the tagline ‘It’s 22 years later, and Norman Bates is coming home’.
This, however, was not always intended to be the main artwork with which the sequel would be promoted.
In fact, the image was originally used on a Christmas card that was distributed to members of the Psycho II cast and crew.
Later, when the first planned promo poster was created, director Richard Franklin was not satisfied with the results.
At the suggestion of editor Andrew London, the photo from the Christmas card was used as the poster instead; London is also said to have suggested the tagline, “It’s 22 years later, and Norman Bates is coming home.”
5. The Back to the Future set appears in the film
As well as seeing the return of the original Psycho house, Psycho II prominently features another set made famous elsewhere – although in this case, it wouldn’t be until a couple of years later.
In the sequence when Lila Loomis is being followed by Dr Raymond, we see the town of Fairvale.
This is actually Courthouse Square, a Universal Studios backlot first used in the 1948 film An Act of Murder.
However, while Courthouse Square was used in a number of celebrated films including 1962’s To Kill a Mockingbird, it was most famously utilised as Hill Valley town square in 1985’s Back to the Future.
Other films to be shot on Courthouse Square include Gremlins, The Monster Squad, The Nutty Professor, Jingle All the Way – and, of course, Back to the Future Part II.
4. The final scene was kept a secret from the cast and crew until the day of shooting
One of the main things that keeps viewers on edge in Psycho II is the ongoing mystery as to the true identity of Norman’s ‘mother.’
While it’s apparent that someone other than Norman has to be responsible for at least some of the murders, we don’t find out exactly who this is until the very last scene.
And that’s just the way it was for the cast and crew of Psycho II, as all the shooting scripts reportedly ended with a note reading, “The final scene will be distributed to cast and crew on the last day of shooting.”
As such, only two people knew how the scene played out ahead of time: writer Tom Holland, and director Richard Franklin (yes, it seems even Anthony Perkins was left in the dark).
Spoiler coming up now… the climax reveals that diner owner Mrs Spool (Claudia Bryar) was the one donning the wig and dress, declaring herself to be Norman’s biological mother – and shortly thereafter becoming the only person Norman actually kills in the movie.
3. Meg Tilly said making the film was “one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had”
As is perhaps unsurprising given the aforementioned tension that arose with Anthony Perkins, Meg Tilly reportedly didn’t have a great time shooting Psycho II.
The actress did not attend the film’s premiere, and years later said that “Psycho II was one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had. Anthony Perkins and director Richard Franklin were very difficult.”
Still, in another interview Tilly said making the film was “an excellent experience in which I learned many things”, noting that “Tom Holland, the screenwriter, was very nice to me… he helped me in all that he could.”
Tilly’s star would continue to rise in the years after Psycho II, most notably with a Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe win (and an Oscar nomination) for 1985’s Agnes of God.
However, Tilly would largely move away from film from the mid-90s onwards; while she still takes the odd TV role, she now works more extensively as a novelist.
2. It’s one of Quentin Tarantino’s favourite films
On release in June 1983, Psycho II was only a modest box office success (the film was never likely to do huge business given Universal chose to open it opposite Return of the Jedi).
While it still turned a comfortable profit, Psycho II was also met with a largely lukewarm response from critics at the time.
However, in the years since, Psycho II’s reputation has grown, and it’s often held up as one of the best horror sequels out there.
One particularly noteworthy fan of Psycho II is the celebrated writer-director and film aficionado Quentin Tarantino.
The Once Upon a Time in Hollywood filmmaker has declared Psycho II one of his favourite films ever, and even says he prefers it to the original Psycho.
1. Two more Psycho sequels were made with Anthony Perkins returning as Norman Bates
While it wasn’t a huge blockbuster success, Psycho II did well enough (almost $35 million at the box office, off a $5 million budget) for more sequels to be made.
Perkins would play Norman Bates a third time in 1986’s Psycho III, which the actor himself also directed.
However, this sequel was not such a success, and a fourth film – 1990’s Psycho IV: The Beginning – wound up being made for television.
Directed by Mick Garris, Psycho IV was both a sequel to Psycho III and a prequel to the 1960 original, with Henry Thomas playing a young Norman Bates in flashback scenes.
This would be the last time Anthony Perkins played the role, as he sadly died in 1992 – six years before Vince Vaughn took over as Norman Bates in 1998’s controversial Psycho remake.