Psycho IV: The Beginning (Blu-ray) (1990)

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Released 2-Mar-2016

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1990
Running Time 96:20
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Mick Garris
Studio
Distributor

ViaVision
Starring Anthony Perkins
Henry Thomas
Olivia Hussey
CCH Pounder
Warren Frost
Donna Mitchell
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $15.95 Music Graeme Revell


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

††† It has been stated before and it deserves to be repeated: Alfred Hitchcockís Psycho did not need to be sequelised. But that didnít stop sequels from materialising, leading to the unexpectedly strong Psycho II and the underwhelming Psycho III. Released in 1990, Psycho IV: The Beginning is the final instalment in the Psycho franchise (save for the remake and the recent TV show), and the last motion picture to feature Anthony Perkins in his most iconic role. Although the last two sequels were released theatrically, Psycho IV debuted on cable television, hence itís a fairly low-key affair, for better or for worse. The good news is that this fourth movie is better than Psycho III, and is actually a fairly decent movie in its own right, but of course it falls far short of the timeless classic that spawned it.

††† Rather than another murder spree for Norman Bates (Perkins), Psycho IV functions as a prequel of sorts, which is tradition for horror franchises. Norman now lives peacefully with his wife Connie (Donna Mitchell), who informs him that they are having a baby even though Norman is vehemently against continuing the Bates lineage. Late one night, Norman calls into a late-night radio show hosted by Fran Ambrose (CCH Pounder) whoís covering the topic of why sons kill their mothers. Calling in under the pseudonym of ĎEdí (a nod to Ed Gein, the serial killer whom Bates is based on), Norman relays the tale of his younger years when he lived with his mother Norma (Olivia Hussey). A controlling, demanding woman with severe mood swings, Norma psychologically abused Norman (played as a teenager by Henry Thomas) and repressed his sexuality, driving him to commit murder. And while telling his story on radio, Norman also explains that he has the urge to kill just once more...

††† For a television film, Psycho IV was a fairly ambitious project. After all, it follows in the footsteps of Hitchcockís immortal classic and was even penned by Joseph Stefano, who wrote the screenplay for the 1960 film (adapting Robert Blochís novel). Even though thereís a IV in the title, one doesnít need to have seen the other sequels in order to watch this one - Psycho IV plays out as more of a direct sequel to Hitchcockís movie, though II and III arenít exactly contradicted either. Whereas Norma has been heavily discussed in previous films, this is the first instalment to feature scenes of her when she was alive, providing a firsthand glimpse of Normanís upbringing. However, the relationship is not as layered and nuanced as perhaps it should, with Norma written as an outright evil character. Psycho IV also misses the chance to do something more novel with Batesí backstory, not to mention Stefano neglects the dark comedy aspect that was most notably present in the prior sequels, making this a very serious affair.

††† Despite the problematic writing, Psycho IV nevertheless does its job well enough. At the helm was Mick Garris, who also directed the likes of Critters 2 and Sleepwalkers. Working from a modest budget, the movie is fairly basic in its cinematography and direction, lacking the spark of visual elegance previously provided by Hitchcock and Richard Franklin (Psycho II). A defter cinematographer might have made the picture more exciting, yet itís still competent enough, especially for a TV movie produced in 1990. Murder scenes are often thrilling, particularly the intense scene of Norman poisoning his mother and her lover, and Garris keeps the movie chugging along at an agreeable pace for its humble 96-minute duration. The score, composed by Graeme Revell (The Crow, Sin City), often slavishly recreates Bernard Herrmannís iconic sound, yet itís mostly effective.

††† Perkins, who had directed Psycho III and was perpetually associated with Bates, is note-perfect as to be expected, effortlessly slipping back into his notorious role as if no time had passed. Itís hard not to like Perkins, with his boyish good looks and limitless charisma, which gives the film an edge. Meanwhile, Henry Thomas, who was so adorable in Steven Spielbergís E.T., is a superb young Norman Bates, managing to mimic Perkinsí traits without coming off as forced - itís easy to accept that this is the same character. Heís one of the filmís main assets, and heís sympathetic despite the awful acts he commits. And as Normanís mother, Hussey does her best with the overly one-dimensional role, believable as both a loving mother and a cruel sadist. Worth noting that Hussey actually appeared in 1974ís Black Christmas, one of the many slasher films that was inspired by Hitchcockís Psycho. The rest of the ensemble are serviceable, with Pounder making a particularly good impression as the radio host.

††† Psycho IV is frequently criticised, often unfairly so. Of course it pales in comparison to the first movie, but basically every horror movie does. What matters is that itís not an awful sequel, and it doesnít tarnish the franchise. Added to this, itís an improvement over Psycho III, and itís at least admirable that the movie doesnít turn Bates into a mindless slasher like Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers. Though not scintillating, Psycho IV is a perfectly respectable way to close the series, and a fine way to conclude the story of Norman Bates, who still retains sympathy and humanity thanks to Perkinsí fine, nuanced portrayal.

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Transfer Quality

Video

††† Via Vision presents Psycho IV: The Beginning in 1080p high definition, via the MPEG-4 AVC video codec. The HD master was supplied directly from Universal. The feature was shot and edited on 35mm film stock, as opposed to video which was the norm for television productions at the time. Thus, Psycho IV is not some cheap-looking DVD upscale, but a true HD presentation, and it's pretty d*** good.

††† The movie was originally finished and aired in full-screen 1.33:1, but this Blu-ray presentation is widescreen, framed at 1.85:1. Comparing the image to my old full-screen DVD, it appears that the widescreen presentation is the result of a mix of cropping and re-framing. In some shots, the Blu-ray possesses more visual information on one or both sides of the frame, while in other shots the Blu-ray has less information at the top and bottom. I do prefer faithful presentations, but Psycho IVís widescreen image is tastefully done, and does help to give the movie a cinematic look more in keeping with the other instalments in the Psycho franchise.

††† This is the first time ever that Psycho IV has debuted on Blu-ray anywhere in the world, which makes this transfer a bit of a godsend. Itís much better than expected. Looking roughly in line with Psycho II and III, if perhaps a bit more refined, the presentation retains a healthy grain structure which accentuates the image, keeping fine detail intact. After years of a low-quality DVD, itís a pleasure to watch this HD image. Close-ups are nicely detailed, and the transfer thankfully does not suffer in low light sequences. I did notice some minor ringing on the edges of objects, but itís not overly distracting.

††† As with the prior sequels, there is the usual smattering of specks and blemishes, but I almost prefer it that way, as it gives the visuals more character. However, as with Psycho II and III, the HD image is not as refined as more expensive restoration efforts, with decent but unspectacular sharpness, and some degree of muddiness.

††† Although it falls short of perfection (like the film itself), Psycho IV looks a lot better than expected for its high definition debut, and itís hard to imagine anybody being disappointed with it. This is likely the best we will ever get.

††† No subtitles are available.


Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
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Overall

Audio

††† Unlike the previous sequels, Psycho IV: The Beginning arrives with only one audio option: an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track. Itís a strong, robust track, especially considering the TV movie origins, and it does its job very effectively.

††† The elements are in great condition, with no bothersome issues to speak of. Itís a clean track, free of any crackling or hissing, though naturally itís not as crisp or as impactful as a more recent horror movie. Dialogue is the main order of the day, and there are no issues here, with all the chatter coming through the front channels with impressive precision. Itís a well-mixed track, with Revellís score coming through nicely and the various sound effects making an impact.

††† There is some noticeable separation which makes the experience more immersive, particularly in outdoor environments. But being a made-for-cable movie produced in 1990, itís not going to be anyoneís go-to disc to show off their surround sound. Psycho IV sounds marvellous on Blu-ray, as good as anybody could reasonably expect.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

††† None. Nothing at all. The disc menu has a single option: ďPlay Movie.Ē Being the most recent Psycho sequel, some interviews and a commentary wouldíve been nice. What a shame.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

† † On August 23rd, 2016, Shout Factory released a Region A-locked Blu-ray edition. Reportedly it only features lossless 2.0 audio as opposed to our 5.1 track, though I cannot comment on which is better. However, Shout's Blu-ray comes with exclusive special features:

††† Shout's edition is the clear winner.

Summary

††† The final Psycho movie doesn't get the recognition it probably deserves. The fact that it's not irredeemably awful or stupid is a godsend. I enjoyed it, and am happy with the movie's Blu-ray release. Despite no extras, the presentation is strong enough to warrant a purchase.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Friday, December 18, 2015
Review Equipment
DVDPlayStation 4, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42LW6500. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationLG BH7520TW
SpeakersLG Tall Boy speakers, 5.1 set-up, 180W

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