Psycho III (1986)

JULY 6, 2008


My memories of the one time I watched some of Psycho III were pretty vague. I remembered an odd scene with Jeff Fahey, a nun figuring into the plot, and something about money (the 5 dollar bill). Not really a lot to go on, and since that one time was on regular TV (and I don’t think I watched it start to finish to boot) it was sort of like watching it for the first time. But even so, it’s still pretty lame in the suspense department, though it still works as a sleazy, almost comedic, slasher movie.

And that’s pretty much the best way to describe this one. Long gone is Hitchcock’s idea of not showing any actual violence – the murders here are graphic and the violence is definitely on the screen (it also has the highest body count of any of the Psycho films). I guess it would be too much to ask for to have three films in a horror series that favor suspense over violence and gore (Halloween didn’t even get that far), so it’s not the end of the world, but still, it’s kind of a downer that they barely even try to provide tension.

The other entry on the “con” list is that the film pretty much negates itself AND Psycho II in the process. At the end of this film, Norman is in the institution again, and the big reveal at the end of II (that Mrs. Poole was actually Norman’s mother) is nullified by new information that reveals that Norman’s mother WAS Mrs. Bates all along. No wonder IV went the prequel route, there is literally nothing left to go on at the end of this film. Everyone’s dead, all storylines have been resolved, etc.

Another minor issue is the laziness. It’s supposedly only a month after II, but Norman’s hair is completely different and he looks much older (hell, he even looks older than the three years it was in real time in between II and III). Norma’s corpse also looks far more aged than it should be, and somehow the motel has become a deserted husk over the course of 3-4 weeks (look at the size of the tumbleweed!). It seems like the only reason to keep the timelines so close together is to keep the Mrs. Poole story going, but it’s largely forgotten anyway.

Otherwise, it’s a fun movie. Norman finally gets to be completely nutty, as we are treated to several scenes of him and mother talking (without shadow or voiceover obscuring the “truth” about any of it), and Jeff Fahey’s Duke is one of the best characters in his career. He’s completely despicable and sleazy, but endearing anyway. Apparently he was the killer originally, but this change was definitely for the better. He almost has as much screen time as Perkins, and once he exits, the loss is definitely noticeable. The rest of the cast is rather bland, and I wonder how much better the film might have been had it just been Perkins, Fahey, and Diana Scarwid (the nun!) in a sort of fucked up love triangle, rather than taking up a lot of screentime with the reporter nonsense that seems leftover from II.

Speaking of similar story elements, screenwriter Charles Pogue deserves a swift kick to the face for every line of dialogue from the original movie that he repeats here. It’s one thing to have one or two during the movie, but there are that many (or more) in single SCENES. We get it, dude, you know the original movie well. You don’t need to constantly remind us about it. And there are many similarities to the plot of II as well, but the rather mean-spirited feel of this film keeps it from being too noticeable.

I also dig the movie’s look. Anthony Perkins directed this one himself, and he’s an able director (too bad he never did another). Like the script, it’s a bit too “homage-heavy” at times, but it also definitely has its own look for the most part, particularly Fahey’s red-tinted motel room and the bulked up number of nighttime scenes (when I think of Psycho – I always think of daytime scenes). Why it always seems to rain only at night I don’t know, but nonetheless – a damn fine effort from Perkins, who also turns in a typically great performance (maybe even better than II, since he’s allowed to “go a little mad” in this one).

Had II not been so good, III’s faults probably would have been less of an issue with me. But knowing that a great sequel can be made to a REALLY great movie just sort of raises expectations, and no one here was up to the task. It certainly has its merits, but after two films, a Psycho movie should be great, not just entertaining. It’s better than other mid 80s slashers, but it shouldn’t be appropriate to compare it to one in the first place.

What say you?


  1. I vaguely remember this. My biggest recollection was making a stupid, short b-movie with some friends and my buddy added the clip of Jeff Fahey with the lamps (?!?!) into the credit sequence.

    I need to see this flick again. Fahey rules!

  2. The fact that Anthony Perkins ultimately died from AIDS may account for why he looks so much older and different here. Also, he did get to direct a second movie, called "Lucky Stiff" -- though it had nothing to do with the "Psycho" series.

  3. I'm pretty sure II had a higher body count: six people (Toomey, the teenage kid in the basement, Lila and Mary, Dr. Raymond and Emma Spool). In III, I think it was five (the nun at the beginning, Duke, Maureen, the phone booth killing and the bathroom killing) unless I missed one.


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