The original Psycho novel by Robert Bloch was published in 1959 and became an instant hit, leading to the smash movie only a year later, which brought Norman Bates’s terrifying story into the public consciousness, where it still remains (proven by the success of the tv series, Bates Motel). It took Bloch 23 years to write another Psycho novel, revealing that Norman had been in a mental institution the entire time. In that sequel, Norman quickly escapes the sanatorium and goes on a killing spree in Hollywood.
But what happened in that asylum during those two decades? Until now, no one has known.
It’s 1960. Norman Bates is in the State Hospital for the Criminally Insane and it’s up to Dr. Felix Reed to bring him out of his catatonic state.
But Norman and Dr. Reed have obstacles in twisted fellow patients and staff members who think of the institution as a prison rather than a place of healing. And the greatest obstacle is the building itself, once a private sanatorium, rumoured to be haunted. A wild card appears in the persona of Robert Newman, Norman’s twin brother, taken away at birth after the attending doctor pronounced him brain damaged. As Robert and Norman grow to know each other, Norman senses a darkness in Robert, even deeper than that which has lurked in Norman himself.
Soon, murders begin to occur and a shocking chain of events plunge us even deeper into the deranged madness inside the walls of Psycho: Sanitarium.
Most people my age grew up with the movies of Hitchcock: call us the Hitchcock generation if you want and you won’t be far from right. My Father raised me into loving the art of cinema and I pride myself in having been able to appreciate most if not all of the major classics out there. Psycho being one of them makes it a possession of great admiration amongst my movie collection.
I have often debated the brilliance of its characters, their psychological deviations and depths and the pure cinematographic value of the film. With a certainty beyond 100% I can claim there is not one soul that was left untroubled after the closing scene of the movie where Bates says: “She wouldn’t even harm a fly”.
I believe I was 15 when I first watched the movie. Stunned is the exact adjective to use for describing my state for days after. Naturally, when I saw the sequel being published this year I plunged myself to find a way to have it. I received an advance copy of Sanitarium for an honest review from Netgalley and here it is my honest opinion of this novel.
I read Sanitarium in matter of hours due to my excitement. In general, Williams gave a good attempt in trying to preserve the mood of the movie as well as the ever haunting image of the mother. The feeling of uneasiness that hung over throughout the movie was well exploited in the sequel. For some reason it just missed the spot with me. There was intrigue, also tension, but it wasn’t strong enough to suck me into the story.
Williams followed the recipe with exact accuracy but lacked that pinch of creativity that I was looking for. He wrote a marvellous, unsettling tale, but it just doesn’t manage to get out of the shadow of its bigger brother the original classic.
The feeling of pity for Bates ruined the original appeal of greatness of the character. I perfectly understand that there was no other way of proceeding, for the purposes of the plot, but I cannot help but feel cheated. Furthermore, what really pissed me off is the discrepancy between the first disappearance and all the following. The first one got me on edge I even squeaked and woke my boyfriend, but the rest of them were dull and orchestrated. WHY, WILLIAMS, WHY?
My overall opinion is great writing, great character building, occasional greatness darkened by the attempt to match the classic. Williams should have trusted himself more, for he has a great sense for the creepy and macabre. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to see what comes after and need a certain closure to the original story.