October Horrorshow: Psycho III

...And then there was Psycho III. Part of the appeal of the first two films in the franchise was that there was a fair amount of ambiguity to events. There were murders, but it wasn’t at all clear until the end who had been committing them (of course, a person would have to be living under a rock to not have picked up on Psycho’s twist at some point in their lives). Not so in Psycho III. Norman Bates is doubtlessly the bad guy in this one, so it just remains to be seen how he will get his comeuppance.

Directed by Norman Bates himself, Anthony Perkins, Psycho III takes place shortly after the preceding film. Norman is back to living alone and preparing to reopen the motel. Not far away, a nun who has lost her faith and left the convent, Maureen (Diana Scarwid), meets up with Duke (Jeff Fahey), a young drifter on his way to California. I hate Duke. Have I mentioned in any other reviews how there is no other character in film I despise more than the creepy sexual predator? Not those that are played realistically, mind you, but the sneering, smarmy douchebag that shows up in many bad movies, mostly horror. I hate these characters because they have no redeeming qualities, and they are lazy. It takes no effort from writer, director, or actor to put a one-dimensional ass-hat like Duke to film. Want a quick way to show an audience a character is a bad guy? Have him try to rape a nun in a parked car, then toss her to the curb. That’s Duke. And we as an audience get to spend a significant amount of time with this character. Why? In what way does it make a film, here or in any other, any better to have a supporting character with such despicable traits that have little to nothing to do with the plot? Answer: it doesn’t. Not here, not in Doom, not in Leviathan, not in Rob Zombie’s Halloween II, not in Freddy vs. Jason, nor in any other bad movie I have ever seen.

Anyway, Maureen and Duke make their way to the Bates Motel separately. Duke gets a job, Maureen gets a room. Norman falls madly in love. But, he’s crazy as a loon. So that complicates matters. The rest of the film follows Norman as he tries to ignore the voice in his head telling him to kill Maureen. He does a good job, because she’s the co-star (not that such a distinction would have bothered Hitchcock). But since Psycho III is a horror film, someone has to die. So a couple random people get theirs, just so the audience can see some blood. It makes no sense other than to break up some slow spots.

As the film progresses, Norman becomes more and more desperate. More desperate to be with Maureen, more desperate to keep the townsfolk from finding out just how fucking nuts he is, and more desperate to slake his bloodlust. Before all this, though, I was left to wonder how Norman got where he was. How does a small town just accept a confessed murderer in its midst? How does said confessed murderer, more than a bit twitchy on his best days, keep getting dates with young women? Needless to say, this film, and its predecessor, require some suspension of disbelief. Unlike its predecessor, though, Psycho III isn’t all that good.

This starts with Perkins. For a first time director, he wasn’t all that bad. He put forth a competent effort, getting okay work out of the cast while keeping a convoluted story from going off the rails. It was Perkins as actor where things went wrong. His Norman Bates in this film was reduced to caricature. It seemed as if there was nothing left to wring out of Norman, so subtleties and nuance were jettisoned. Norman being the central focus of the film, wherever he went, the film followed. What had the potential to be a tight production ends up being flat.