I suspect that the 22 years between Alfred Hitchcock's original and this sequel must surely be one of the longest gaps between films in a series. The idea that someone would make a sequel to what is now regarded as a classic film seems somewhat difficult to comprehend and yet by all accounts, it was a decent attempt at a follow up that was as good as it could have been. Certainly better received than Gus Van Sant's more recent and suitably redundant remake. One of the more interesting ideas put forward by film music fans for the remake was that Danny Elfman could have updated Bernard Herrmann's original Psycho score by adding brass and woodwinds to the original strings only arrangement. I must admit that the idea is intriguing and I suspect that it's a concept that might have worked even better in the hands of a composer as skilled as Jerry Goldsmith. However, this was not to be and Goldsmith's effort for the sequel is very different to Herrmann's original.
Whereas Herrmann created at least 50% of the shock value and tension of the film through music, Jerry Goldsmith's approach is considerably more sub-textural. After the famous murder music by Herrmann opens the disc, Goldsmith's Main Title starts with a slithery, descending string phrase, but this gives way to a gentle piano melody, which is the perfunctory main theme. This restrained approach pretty much sums up the mood of the score. There is little aggression and Goldsmith seems to rely more on a disturbed atmosphere reflecting Bates' deranged mind more than a simple slasher. The orchestral textures are augmented by some subtle synth effects, even if one has the unfortunate distinction of sounding like one used by Goldsmith for Gremlins. Although generally quiet, when the excitement does increase, Goldsmith does so in typically uncompromising style with harsh percussion and brass, the slow burn to the last couple of minutes of It's Not Your Mother being perhaps the highlight.
There are some fine enough moments, the descending idea from the beginning of the Main Title makes several appearances to good effect and Goldsmith shows his skill for conjuring up an impressive soundscape. It is good, make no mistake and probably works great in the film, but something doesn't quite click somewhere along the line and it never quite seems to become more than the sum of its parts. It is hard not to make comparisons and I'd suggest that any follow up was liable to suffer. However, on its own terms, Psycho II is a solid score, but rather pales in comparison to his other efforts of that year including Twilight Zone: The Movie and the stunning Under Fire.