A Look Back At: Psycho IV: The Beginning

"You've met Norman...now meet mother!"

“You’ve met Norman…now meet mother!”

The fourth film in a franchise, that is when people begin thinking the series, characters, and stories are all getting old and most of all, milked. But is that true with Psycho IV: The Beginning ? Lets find out, as we take a look back at it.

Psycho IV is the Psycho film that takes the bravest risks in the entirety of the series, it takes its lead Anthony Perkins as Norman and casts him in a sub-role, making him the narrator of the story we will be seeing. The story behind the main flashbacks to Norman’s childhood is that Norman has finally been let back out into society and now has a wife and lives with her. He hears the topic of a radio show being about matricide, and calls to give his opinion on it. This is where the real story starts.

The story focuses on Norman’s childhood and teenage years with his mother, with Henry Thomas playing young Norman Bates. And Henry really does a stellar job of being a young Norman, he has that ‘weird crazy’ vibe that Perkins brought into the role with earlier Psycho’s. The story starts just as Norman’s father dies, and goes up to where Norman kills both his mother and her new boyfriend. The story is very interesting, and we get to know how Norman became the killer that he did.

We also get to know Norman’s mother, “Norma” who is played by Olivia Hussey and does an outstanding job. She is a believable person, and you can begin to see where Norman gets this sick and twisted way of life from. It’s brilliant seeing her on screen. But Olivia didn’t even have to audition for the part as Norman’s mother, she was directly offered the role and accepted it immediately.

Though Psycho IV’s plot focuses on Norman’s early life, it wasn’t always planned to be about that. Anthony Perkins and the screenwriter for Psycho III Charles Edward Pogue, had originally pitched a plot that had Norman escape from a mental asylum with a ‘mute patient’. When Norman gets back to the Bates Motel, it has been changed into a tourist attraction for horror weekends. Then the actor that is suppose to play Norman Bates at the attraction ends up quitting, and actual Norman Bates gets the job and plays himself. Psycho III writer Pogue, said before that it was planned to be a black comedy but Universal didn’t like the idea.

[Norman was asked what is his name] Fran Ambrose (Radio host): "Well, we have to call you something..." Norman Bates: "You can call me Ed."

[Norman is asked what is his name]                        Fran Ambrose (Radio host): “Well, we have to call you something…”
Norman Bates: “You can call me Ed.”

At the beginning of the movie where Norman phones into the radio show and says his name is ‘Ed’, it is widely known that the original book ‘Psycho’ written by Robert Bloch, based the character Norman Bates on the real life serial killer ‘Ed Gein’.

One of the many things that is noticed in Psycho IV is that the film doesn’t follow the story from the second or third movie which involves Mrs. Spool. Joseph Stefano who you may have heard of before, was the writer for Psycho IV. But Stefano was also the writer for the original Psycho as well, and this is why he ignores the two other sequels. He wanted to use the original film as the source material and make Psycho IV: The Beginning a sort of ‘direct sequel’.

Something that both the original Psycho and Psycho IV have in common is that they both wanted to have the ending as a secret. With the original film, Hitchcock had all of Bloch’s Psycho books bought so that people couldn’t read the book and figure out what the ending was (hence one of the taglines for the film “Don’t give away the ending – it’s the only one we have!”).

But Psycho IV took the same care for the ending as Hitchcock did with the original. In the first broadcast of the film, Janet Leigh explained that several different endings were shot so that if one of the endings were spoiled and it was released to the public, they could scrap that one and use a different (already shot) one.

After Psycho IV did first air, rumors started going around of a fifth film. One of the biggest rumors was that in the next film Anthony Perkins would be absent and that his new born son would be the ‘star’ of the film. And it was even said that the film was already in development. But this turned out  false and the next film to release would be Gus Van Sant’s remake that cast Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates.

Though Psycho IV: The Beginning isn’t the best of the sequels, it still brings in a original and interesting plot by taking us back in time to when Norman wasn’t like any other teenager. Though at points it relives some of its past films glory and plays it safe in areas, it is still a good film to be seen and there’s worse Psycho films you could see (the remake).

Questions you may ask:

Should you watch this?
It really depends, if you have a fondness for the franchise then I’d say yes you should see the fourth film as it still is a good sequel and holds up to the name. But if you dislike the sequels and like the original film, I’d say give it a chance to be honest since the writer of the original wrote this. Anthony Perkins also said when he first saw the film that it was “the best out of all the Psycho sequels”. If you never liked any of the movies, then no, don’t waste your time on this.

Is the rest of the franchise worth watching?
Without a doubt I think it is. For me, it is one of the best horror franchises that has actually stayed true to its original and told interesting tales. Of course the original is normally known as the best film of the lot, but I do think Psycho II is up there with it. It focuses a whole lot more on Norman as an actual person and you get to know him more. Psycho III is a direct sequel to II and is also good, but unfortunately not as good as it could of been. But yes, the whole franchise is worth a watch and it holds up unlike many other old horror franchises wouldn’t.

Is there any other movies like this I may like, that are similar to this?
Yes, and there is such a wide range of options too that I possibly couldn’t even begin to list. You have your classic slasher horror movies that all took influence from Psycho in one way or another. You have your Friday the 13th’s, Halloween’s, Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s (which are also loosely based on Ed Gein like Psycho) and such. There is no shortage of slasher films out there.


Still if you have any questions, comments, or opinions, please leave a comment below or contact me directly at ‘andyaylesbury@hotmail.co.uk’.

Thank you for reading!


2 thoughts on “A Look Back At: Psycho IV: The Beginning

  1. I didn’t really like 3 & 4. Psycho 2 is every bit as good as the original, I think some ppl are reluctant to admit it, as if it would taint Hitchcocks legacy or something. I actually think Psycho 2 might be one of the best horror sequels ever made.

    • I actually agree with you wholeheartedly. If I am honest, I think Psycho II is a better movie than the original is. It’s not saying that Hitchcock’s original is bad, because that is amazing as well. But I think with the focus solely on Norman in Psycho II works so much better.

      Thanks for the comment!

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