Monday, April 28, 2008

Psycho III (1986)

Psycho III starts with a startling scene where a young nun screams, “There is no God!” before scaling a bell tower (reminiscent of the one in Hitchcock’s Vertigo) to attempt suicide. After accidentally causing her Mother Superior to plunge to her death, the young nun, Maureen Coyle (Diana Scarwid), leaves the convent. After a trek across the desert, she gets a ride with the sleazy Duane (“call me Duke”), played by Jeff Fahey. She bails when the skeeve tries to get fresh with her.

Back at the Bates Motel and nearby town, people are speculating about what happened to Ms. Spool (who’s fate we find out at the end of Psycho II…or do we?), who vanished without a trace a month ago. A reporter starts snooping around and claims that Norman was behind her demise.

Duane rolls into town and takes a job running the front desk of the Bates Motel and Maureen takes a room there as well. Norman takes a special liking to Maureen while it seems that Mother has returned as bodies start popping up. Has Norman gone mad again or is someone with ulterior motives behind the murders?

Psycho III differs wildly from the first two films. It was made in 1986 and the sleazy slasher feel of the decade is apparent. While it is still an enjoyable film, it doesn’t take itself as seriously as the first two Psycho films. It features gratuitous nudity, disposable characters, bloody kills scenes and so on that are typical of 80’s slashers.

Psycho III marks Anthony Perkins directorial debut and he did a rather impressive job. There are several scenes that hearken back to the original (like a fall down the stairs) that delight and other homages to Hitchcock’s work (like the previously mentioned Vertigo bell tower scene). Perkins also frames scenes with interesting camera angles throughout the film and uses garish neon colors to light scenes.

The acting overall is pretty solid, though Anthony Perkins portrayal of Norman Bates felt a little empty this time around. He looked a bit weary in this film, which made the character that much more weak. Norman was still immensely likable, but Norman’s signature eagerness and neediness was somehow missing. Still, no one can do Norman like Perkins can and he still managed to pull you into the story and made you side with Norman, despite his “psycho” tendencies. The supporting cast, including Jeff Fahey and Diana Scarwid, did a great job overall, though the only person you really care about is Norman.

The kills were pretty violent and definitely bloody, but it just didn’t seem that there were that many of them and that most of the time it was a disposable character getting offed. I did love the scene with one of the victims in the ice box, though (no matter how unbelievable), as well as the Cupid’s arrow kill late in the film.

Though Psycho III isn’t the masterpiece Psycho is or the tension-filled ride that Psycho II is, it is a fun popcorn flick that doesn’t taint the Psycho legacy.

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