Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), the homicidal schizophrenic, is back in business at the Bates Motel. He has fixed up the ice machine and hired a new helper — Duane (Jeff Fahey), a woman-abusing guitar player who needs some cash for his journey to L.A. Then Maureen (Diana Scarwid) shows up — she's a runaway nun bearing a heavy load of guilt. Also in town is a pushy reporter (Roberta Maxwell) who wants to do a feature on Norman. She's busy digging up the past.

Screenplay writer Charles Edward Pogue has concocted these characters in order to maximize the Hitchcockian elements which made Psycho such a universally acclaimed horror movie. Our momma's boy wrestles with his demons while Duane does some nasty things to a bimbo he has picked up. Soon she's slashed by Norman and stashed in the ice machine. For a while Norman plays good Samaritan to the suicidal Maureen, but then his paranoia heats up to produce a surprising finale.

Director Anthony Perkins does an admirable job drawing out this twisted tale's sexual, religious, and misogynous elements. Like Norman's birdfeeder, the proof is in the poison, and this sequel is a toxic thriller that works.