What about the 1986 PSYCHO III? Well it's a film that I keep going back to. I am sure nostalgia is one of the reasons for that. As youi should know, I've been covering the BATES MOTEL TV show now of late and I've kind of become Bates crazy now of late. So I decided to review the remaining PSYCHO movies that I hadn’t covered yet. So expect a review for PSYCHO 4: THE BEGINNING in due time as well. And no, I won’t cover the abomination that was the 1987 BATES MOTEL pilot starring Burt Cort, life’s too short! It blew then, I am sure it blows now. PSYCHO III was more of straightforward film than its predecessors. It didn’t have the the maturity of the original and lacked the mystery the sequel had going for it. What it did have though was an 80’s slasher soul and a warped sense of humor that made sure to keep me happy. Think of this puppy as the party version of PSYCHO and you’ll be all good.
This sequel could almost have been named The Norman Show as the lad was in pretty much every frame of the picture and most of the action was seen from his perspective. They embraced the slasher qualities of the character here and basically slapped him under the same spotlight as Freddy, Jason, Michael and company. Granted, Norman is more sophisticated than that at the core, but not as much in this entry. Norman here was a stuttering and face ticking mess. They took what was once subtle and played it up big time! It almost came off as a parody of the Norman Bates in the two previous films, I said almost, cause at the end of the kill, Norman still retained my sympathy and showcased layers due to Anthony Perkins talent and knowledge of the character. Man I miss that actor...
There’s a great scene that totally defined the character for me: Norman poisons a bunch of birds in the name of stuffing them, but one of them winds up still alive, so what does Norman do? He catches it and… sets it free. That’s Norman Bates, part evil, part nutso but also part good hearted hombre who is in a constant war with himself…and Mother of course.
Visually, this one was sumptuously filmed (Perkins aced it in this impressive directorial debut), with jaw dropping cinematography and angles that proved that Perkins did his homework, he definitely watched the original PSYCHO a couple times before diving into this one. Speaking of PSYCHO, this second sequel acted as love letter to it as it put out lots of similar elements. Lost girl (well played by Diana Scarwid) that stumbles to the Bates Motel during a rain storm (Just like Marion Crane in PSYCHO), one that Norman falls for (potent love story here - a tragic one), Norman’s taxidermy hobby was in full swing, some of the same lines from the original were repeated (“We all go a little mad sometimes” or this one which didn’t go down smooth here for me as it felt forced: “Oh, mother, blood! Blood!”), even the famous Arbogast staircase fall shot was repeated in this one for good measures. The references were ample and if you know the original like I do, that will do one of two things for ya: A- Make you smile at the nods. B- Turn you off because the flick is basically copying the original. I went with A. I found it endearing and fun! Hey, I’m a simple man!!
PSYCHO III double downed on the exploitation elements too. Jugs and blood fans will be well served here because this puppy didn't hold back! Add to that some potent religious imagery (I adore the scene that has Mother become The Virgin Mary or the “There is no God:” line), a mucho compelling side character in the case of Duke (gleefully played by Jeff Fahey who steals every scene), a bleak sense of humor that wasn’t scared to spit on the envelope, some razor dialogue (i.e. all of Duke's lines), an attempt at making the wrong things right (in terms of whom is Norman’s mother, Part II had messed with that, Part III fixed it) and an unorthodox score by Carter Burwell that hit the spot (sample it here) and you get a mean spirited and totally out there little gem that got ignored for way to long!
On the stale side of the kitchen knife; like I said before PSYCHO and PSYCHO II were more high brow films and there is a part of me that wishes Part III would have kept to that vibe, alas they went the slasher way for better and for worse. Moreover, there was a lot of dumb moves to serve the plot. For example: Yo Norman! STOP dumping your bodies in the swamp! Everybody and their uncle’s stepchild’s bitch knows that’s where you stash them when you lose your beans and whack away. Change location meng! Also, stop putting Mother’s corpse in the window, you may get less heat that way. And how the hell did one broad crack a mystery that totally went over the police's head? I didn't buy it. Lastly one grating character should have died but didn't and some of the side acting wasn’t alwaysd up to par, nothing critical but it needed to be elbow dropped (Hugh Gillin as Sheriff John Hunt came off like a buffoon to me, to be fair, his lines weren’t all that). RANDOM NOTE: Why would Emma Spool have a black and white picture of herself in a frame in her own house? How vain can one be?! Made me chuckle. Clumsy exposition. END OF NOTE.
On the whole though PSYCHO III made for a whacky ride! Norman was bonkers, plasma and female flesh were ample, the flick sported a fast pace and its sick sense of humor kept hitting the mark. It wasn't the class that was PSYCHO and PSYCHO II but hey, a party horror movie starring Norman Bates? I'M IN!