Anthony Perkins stars in and directs the most shocking Psycho film of all: Psycho III. After years in prison, Norman Bates returns home to the Bates Motel. When a pretty young woman (Diana Scarwid) runs to the motel – and Norman’s open arms – to escape a scandalous secret, he finally gets a chance at a new life. But he has one murderous skeleton in his closet that will do anything not to share him. It’s a new day at the Bates Motel, but the nightmares are just beginning…
Psycho III 3.0
While I have gone on record countless times to being a big fan of the series, notably of the first sequel and even the shot-for-shot remake, I must admit that there is a weak link in its armour. In this case, we’re talking very specifically about ‘Psycho III’.
In my opinion, they could have ended it after the second film: they had revisited the characters and we’d come full circle by the end of that story. There was really no mystery left to uncover and, aside from the re-emergence of a horror icon, there was nothing left to work with.
One of the biggest problems with this particular film is that it essentially transforms Norman Bates into a mass murderer along the lines of Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees – certainly an appealing notion to ’80s film producers who were probably drooling at the notion of creating another long-lasting cash-cow. Unfortunately, it unabashedly slashes away at the heart of the two first films: the mystery behind the sinister goings on.
Case-in-point: from the onset, ‘Psycho III’ makes it clear that our loveable lunatic is on the prowl; there is absolutely nothing to unveil in this film other than the next victim, and the gruesome way in which he or she is done in. Besides this, the only matter that detail left to be resolved is: how or why would Norman Bates halt his murderous rampage?
What the filmmakers never contended with is that this overall vacuousness sows the following seed in the viewer’s mind: who cares? After all, we are not given any reason to root for anyone in this film, really – aside from one character, an ex-nun, who is so poorly-defined by the writer that it is rather difficult to empathize with her plight.
And that’s the key issue with the film: the writing. It doesn’t challenge the viewer, leaves nothing to the imagination and it gives us no reason to truly care about the characters (except in a superficial way). As well, the dialogue is cheesy, full of long-winded, heavy-handed messages and diatribes that probably passed for wisdom and wit in the ’80s (especially in the typically low-brow horror genre!).
Honestly, no actor could survive this script, but the acting here is already painfully overdone and unnatural. Even the usually delightfully awkward and disturbed Norman Bates comes off as a caricature, as Anthony Perkins stammers his lines like a cardboard cut-out with Alzheimer’s disease. Apparently, Perkins was not the best-suited person to direct his own performance – even if it is the character he is most known for.
Of course, Perkins is no director. This was his first attempt and it shows. While he tried to tie the film in with the previous two instalments, including reiterations of scenes we’ve seen in them and recreations of a few familiar (if not iconic!) moments, he proves that he is neither Hitchcock or Franklin and that, while imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it does not a great director make.
In the end, we feel like we’ve been served leftovers – and terrible leftovers at that. Everything in ‘Psycho III’ has been reheated from another film, except that all the good bits have already been consumed previously – so all that we’re left with is the rotting remains of delicious memories that were once served up with cleverness and style.