The events of 1987’s Bates Motel take place 27 years after schizophrenic serial killer Norman Bates is arrested and found guilty by reason of insanity for his crimes. While in the institution, Norman is introduced to a troubled young boy named Alex West (Bud Cort), who murdered his abusive stepfather in a giant tumble dryer and ends up staying in the same institution. Norman takes the lad under his wing until his death 27 years later, coincidentally the same year that Alex is finally allowed out of the institution. According to Norman’s will (how he is deemed of ‘sound mind’ to do so is subject to debate), Alex inherits the Bates Motel and his family home that overlooks it. Alex soon takes over the motel and aims to renovate it back to its former glory. However, he finds the Bates house already illegally inhabited by a spunky runaway girl named Willie (Lori Petty), who worms her way into staying and helping Alex realize his dream of making a go of the motel business. However, not everyone wants the business to succeed, as Alex begins to see the ghost of Mrs. Bates around the place, and calamities begin to happen that threaten the establishment’s livelihood before it can even begin. In what is obviously the first taste of what the “Bates Motel” series would be like, the final third of the film takes a detour as we’re introduced to Alex’s first guest to stay in the motel, an aerobics instructor named Barbara Peters (Kerrie Keane), who claims to be wanting peace and quiet to get some writing done, but in actuality, she aims to slash her wrists in the tub ). At this point, she is visited by a young woman (Khrystyne Haje) who stops her and takes her to a 1950s-themed party happening at the motel (I think), where she is pursued by Tony (Jason Bateman), a young cruiser there, and the two have strong feelings for one another, despite her protestations about their age difference. But there is much more to the events that transpire that night than meets the eye. Richard Rothstein directs this made-for-TV pilot to a series based on Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho that never followed.
Psycho IV: The Beginning is the fourth and final film in Universal’s Psycho franchise, and the last to portray Anthony Perkins in his most famous of roles. It’s the first of the series not to be released theatrically, debuting on the premium cable channel Showtime in 1990. This film is a sequel in theory, as it does take a step forward in showing Norman Bates trying to live the semblance of a normal life today, finally in a relationship with a woman, with a baby on the way. Trouble is, Norman does not want a baby, thinking that being a homicidal maniac is a genetic trait that passes on from generation to generation, and he wants his mother’s psychopathic tendencies to end with him.
On this night, Norman is listening to a late-night radio program about why sons kill their mothers, and after hearing what the doctors have to say about it, Norman ends up calling the show to tell how it really went down for him. Under the pseudonym of ‘Ed’, Norman relates the tale of his adolescence, and how his mother Norma’s severe mood swings, psychological abuse, and sexual repression drove him to commit murder, including his own mother.
Although much talked about in the previous films, Psycho IV: The Beginning is the first to show a living Norma Bates (Olivia Hussey), and to give is a first-hand viewing of how bizarre an upbringing a young Norman (Henry Thomas) would have, resulting in an overwhelming feeling of guilt in his actions that he didn’t have the maturity or mental balance to keep a grip on. In addition to Norma’s stamping out of her son’s masculinity and sexuality, there is also an element of Norman becoming a bit of a surrogate for male companionship in her life in between finding a suitable partner, though never physically consummated between mother and son. Mick Garris directs from a screenplay from Psycho screenwriter Joseph Stefano.
The events of Psycho III take place not long after Psycho II, as Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), still the sole caretaker of the Bates Motel, ends up hiring a temporary new assistant in the wily rogue musician who goes by the name of Duane Duke (Jeff Fahey). He also has a new patron staying in cabin #1, a spiritually faltering (and suicidal) former nun with an uncanny resemblance, not to mention the same initials, of victim Marion Crane, Maureen Coyle (Diana Scarwid). Norman is intensely attracted to Maureen, and the feeling is perhaps mutual, but with jealous Mother Bates always dictating Norman’s actions, that doesn’t bode well for her longevity. Meanwhile, tenacious reporter Tracy Venable (Tracy Maxwell) is trying to discover the whereabouts of a missing woman and is sure that she must have met her fate with Norman, though Sheriff Hunt (Hugh Gillin) thinks it another case of people just out to pick on poor Norman for his past transgressions. Anthony Perkins directs.
Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) finally gets his release from a California mental institution after he is found guilty by reason of insanity for the heinous murders he committed over 22 years prior. Lila Loomis (Vera Miles), sister of one of Bates’ victims, has her pleas for a non-release fall on deaf ears. Having been declared of ‘sound mind’ again, Norman returns to his gothic childhood home and Bates Motel near Fairvale, CA, and takes up a job while on parole at a diner nearby. Norman becomes fast friends with a waitress there named Mary Samuels (Meg Tilly), and he ends up offering her a room for a while after her boyfriend tosses her out for someone new. However, as much as Norman tries to put the past behind him, he is beginning to get that old feeling again, as he begins receiving handwritten notes and phone calls from his mother, as well as her appearance in the house at various times, and people begin to start dying once again.
Janet Leigh starts off the film as Marion Crane, a clerk in a real estate office engaged in a romantic fling with Sam Loomis (John Gavin), the manager of a hardware store in Phoenix, Arizona. When she’s given the task of depositing $40,000 in cash into the bank, Marion impulsively decides to keep it, and drives off to California, perhaps to Sam’s hometown, Fairvale, with the freedom to pursue Sam without concern for finances. En route, her paranoid fears get the best of her, as she begins to have second thoughts, but a powerful storm forces her off the beaten track in search of a place to stay, and she comes to the Bates Motel, a completely vacant establishment with “12 cabins, 12 vacancies”. The motel is run by Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), a shy but friendly man who is excited to not only have his first visitor in weeks, but also one as attractive as Marion, who signs in under a pseudonym. But Norman’s mother, who resides on a small hill overlooking the establishment, isn’t going to lose Norman to just any visiting trollop who comes along without a fight. Alfred Hitchcock directs.
Wes Craven refreshed the struggling slasher film genre with this more surreal and intense take, saving New Line Cinema with one of the big surprise hits of 1984: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. Heather Langenkamp stars as Nancy Thompson, who finds out that she is not alone in having a recurring dream about a badly burnt and scarred man named Freddy Krueger who terrorizes her with horrific acts of terror (Craven says that the character’s name was based on a school mate who bullied him as a child). What’s even more scary is that her friends are starting to die mysteriously, and Nancy is sure that if she were to fall asleep and dream, she will be next in line to be a victim. Her parents think here is something wrong with her, and the local police can’t believe a word of it, so she must fend for herself. But surely she can’t stay awake forever! John Saxon, Johnny Depp and Robert Englund also co-star in this first of many films in the long-running and beloved horror series.