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Horror Reviews - Psycho III (1986)

Psycho III (1986)

Author: Wes R.
Submitted by: Wes R.   Date : 2011-02-22 22:02
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Directed by: Anthony Perkins
Written by: Charles Edward Pogue
Starring: Anthony Perkins, Diana Scarwid, and Jeff Fahey

Reviewed by: Wes R.






“Stupid bitch! You could’ve been comin’ instead of goin’!”


While many franchises that took part in the 80s sequel craze cranked out installments year after year, Universal played it rather conservatively with the Psycho series. The first sequel, Psycho II came out an astonishing twenty-three years after the original. Then III didn’t come along for another three years. You kind of have to wonder if they even wanted to make it at all, but make it, they did. Audiences got to experience another tale featuring one of the all-time classic horror movie characters that had been scaring audiences since 1960. However, would his latest venture be a cut above his last outing, or would audiences be left feeling the stab of disappointment?

We open on a nun, threatening to jump from a bell tower, not unlike the one featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Immediately, the viewer knows that he or she is not in for your traditional Psycho movie… or are they? Sometime later, the lady hitches a ride with a wanna-be rockstar played by Jeff Fahey. The two have a falling out and Fahey soon finds work as the assistant manager for the Bates Motel. Still as desolate and run down as ever. Fahey’s character is approached by a lady planning on doing an article on the effectiveness of the insanity plea, and she wants all the information she can gather on Norman’s day-to-day habits… including, whether or not he’s still murdering people. The former nun then rents a room and begins an awkward friendship with Norman… and of course, by now you should know that whenever Norman makes friends with a girl, it doesn’t make Mother very happy at all. And when Mother isn't happy, people start getting getting murdered.

Psycho III is a fairly dull, by-the-numbers affair, but it’s at least watchable. A lot of the time, when an actor makes the move to director, it doesn’t pan out. One comforting thing is that Perkins seemed to have a good eye for series continuity and cared about getting it right. For example, early on in the film, we see an old paperback book laying on the ground that belonged to a character in Psycho II. Also, reaching back to the original Hitchcock film, Norman seems to have taken up his taxidermy hobby once again. These kind of touches aren’t make it or break it, but they’re nice additions and show that at least somebody was paying attention. However, as the movie progresses, the numerous quotes and references to the original become more than a little tiresome. I know they’re supposed to be good-hearted winks to the audience, but they happen with such frequency, you start to wonder if they weren’t just ripping it off because they didn’t have enough original ideas of their own. It's sort of like, if Nightmare on Elm Street 3 had just reused "I'm your boyfriend now..." and other lines from the original movie, instead of giving fans great, quotable new lines like "Welcome to primetime, bitch!" The film doesn’t really offer anything interesting in the plot department either. While most of Psycho II had the audience guessing what was really going on and if Norman was actually crazy or if it was just people messing around with him, Norman is full-blown bonkers here. With Norman being in full-blown bonkers mode, all the audience gets is your more bland than usual stalk and slash scenes. An attempt is made to further the confusing plot twist introduced in Psycho II but I still don’t buy it. It was an unnecessary twist thrown in for shock value in II and for III the filmmakers would’ve been better served to have forgotten all about it entirely.

Aside from Perkins, the cast isn’t much to write home about. The Lawnmower Man himself, Jeff Fahey is slightly memorable due to some of the more colorful and crude things his character says to women. He's probably the best written character in the entire movie. The leading lady is fairly whiny, uncharismatic, and definitely the weakest of all the series’ leading ladies. A bit part around the halfway point will give Friday the 13th Part V fans something to smile about, as Juliette Cummins pops up... only to be dispatched of in a flurry of stabs. Also on hand to reprise his role as the Sheriff from the previous film is actor Hugh Gillin. In III, the humor levels are up a bit, although the tone of the humorous lines isn’t as blatantly cheesy as you would think. Most of Norman’s one-liners (perhaps inspired by the popularity of Freddy Krueger at the time) are of the dry humor variety and delivered as gravely serious as only Perkins can. The increased humor isn’t the only thing borrowed from the Elm Street series. A couple of different scenes in the film feature bizarre, dream-like hallucinations. For a sequel in a series started by "The Master of Suspense", there really isn't a great deal of suspense The movie barely even tries to scare the audience, so again I have to wonder what they were thinking here in the first place.

The blood and gore quotient is probably along the lines of the second movie, even though it’s not very bloody at all. The death scenes are generally un-memorable, and that’s a shame. For a series that gave audiences arguably one of the all time greatest slasher movie death scenes, if not the single greatest, not a single moment in III had the slightest bit of imagination to it. The film does have a bit more nudity, thanks to the aforementioned Juliette Cummins. The music duties were handed over to longtime Coen Brothers scorer, Carter Burwell. Despite his stellar track record of work with the Coens (his score for Fargo being a particular favorite of mine), his work here is underwhelming. It comes off as random and completely forgettable. Definitely the musical low point of the series. Actually, it’s a low point on many fronts. You can’t completely blame Perkins here, as the script itself was pretty weak. This one reeks of being made by committee with probably a dozen or more Universal execs giving notes on what to change and add on a daily basis. Remember, these were likely the same studio heads that helped bring the world the awesomely dumb Jaws: The Revenge only a year later. Proceed with caution.

Psycho III was released by Universal as both a stand-alone disc and as part of a 2-disc triple feature set paired with Psycho II and Psycho IV: The Beginning. Compared to Psycho II’s transfer, this movie leaves a lot to be desired. Despite being shot a full three years afterward, the film appears much older, and is heavy on grain. Of course, due to the film not exactly being the most popular 80s horror flick, I’d say this is likely the best we’re gonna get for some time to come. It’s worth noting that in the triple feature set, III shares a disc with IV, so perhaps the lackluster transfer is due in part to compression issues. Like Psycho II, III only features a theatrical trailer as the sole bonus feature. Psycho III doesn’t come highly recommended, but it’s probably worth a watch if you enjoyed the first two and are curious to see yet another adventure of Norman Bates. It's the kind of harmless, watchable horror flick that you'd likely catch in the middle of some network's horror marathon and maintain just enough interest to watch it through the end. You could do a lot worse, but you could also skip it and do a lot better. I'd suggest a humble Rent it!




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