FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

May 23, 2014

Juliette Cummins Week Day 5: PSYCHO III

I know I said that Psycho II didn't need to be made, but if that's true then boy, Psycho III (1986) really really super didn't need to be made. And yet, like its predecessor, the third film in the saga of Norman Bates is better than it has any right to be, and certainly it's far better than you'd expect. It's a supremely enjoyable effort, sprinkled with both disturbing violence and the blackest of humor, but studio mandates forced Norman and his mama into the slasher paradigm; the film is marred by nonsensical murders and a silly ending that primes the pump for yet another sequel. Nowadays, the film has found a bit of a cult following- or maybe horror fans finally reached that "you know, it's not that bad..." point after years of crappy PG-13 flicks- but at the time of its release it was a critical and commercial flop. I guess it's true what they say- there is no God!

The story is simple- that Norman simply ain't as rehabbed as everyone thought he was- but it's the characters that check into Bates Motel this time around that give the film life. There's suicidal nun Maureen (Diana Scarwid), wayward wannabe-musician-cum-motel-employee Duke (Jeff Fahey, at his most unhinged), good-time girl Red (Juliette Cummins, at her most memorable)...heck, there's even actress/director Katt Shea, who gets killed on a toilet and stuffed into an ice chest. Psycho III just does not give a shit, it does what it wants!

I mean, if there's any doubt that this movie plays by its own insane rules, you need look no further than what's got to be one of the most bizarre "sex" scenes ever, where Red kind of pretends to burn herself with a cigarette and Duke does...whatever it is he's doing. It's so great!

And let's talk about how pigged out and sexed up Duke's room was after he'd been there for, like, a day.

Star Anthony Perkins stepped behind the camera for Psycho III, showing a surprising amount of style and confidence for a first-time director. The film looks far better than plenty of its genre contemporaries thanks to Perkins's eye for detail and unique set pieces. Red's phone booth death springs immediately to mind, but there are smaller moments equally notable, such as the scene transition where the crack of light under a door becomes the glistening edge of a knife.

Though the script features a few too many callbacks to the original film (yes, Norman, we get it: the blood!), it does manage to retcon the retcon of Mother Bates that happened in Psycho II. And even though he's...well, a psycho who goes around killing people whenever he feels like it, you can't help but root for that Bates boy. Anybody who likes candy corn so much can't be all bad, right?


Wednes said...

Oh, this is beautiful. Nobody gives the Psycho sequels the props they deserve. Necessary? No, but what film is? Roberta Maxwell cracks me up in that movie, though not as much as Dennis Franz in Psycho II. Thanks for giving a shout out to this gem.

Unknown said...

you might be surprised at how good Psycho IV is. i'm pretty sure that it was a made for TV movie. i've only ever got to see part of it. it has to do with norman calling a radio show, and it ain't bad at all.

Stacie Ponder said...

Since I wrote this, I actually have seen IV...and you're right, it's pretty good! Definitely bolstered by a terrific cast. The original Psycho seems so unlikely to spawn a franchise, but somehow it ended up being one of the most interesting horror series.