PSYCHO III (1986) Reviews of superb 2nd sequel

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Psycho III is an American 1986 slasher horror feature film. It is the second sequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. The film stars Anthony Perkins (who also directed), Diana Scarwid (Strange Invaders), Jeff Fahey (Planet Terror) and Roberta Maxwell (The Changeling). The screenplay was written by Charles Edward Pogue (The Fly).


The original electronic music score was composed and performed by Carter Burwell (Twilight) in one of his earliest projects. The film was a box office failure, becoming the lowest grossing film in the Psycho franchise. It was followed by the TV movie, Psycho IV: The Beginning.

The film takes place one month after the events of Psycho II, Norman Bates is still running the Bates Motel with the corpse of Mrs Spool still sitting up in the house. A suicidal nun, whom Norman falls in love with, comes to the motel along with a drifter named Duane Duke and a reporter who is trying to solve the mysterious disappearance of Emma Spool.

Norman Bates still mans the desk at the Bates Motel and lives with the preserved corpse of his mother, Emma Spool. Local law enforcement and Norman’s ex-boss, Ralph Statler, are concerned because Mrs. Spool has been missing for over a month. Duane Duke, a sleazy musician desperate for money, is offered the job of the assistant motel manager to replace the late Warren Toomey who was fired by Norman. Maureen Coyle, a mentally unstable young nun, is a long-term tenant at the Bates Motel.


Tracy Venable, a pushy journalist from Los Angeles, is working on an article about serial killers being put back on the streets. She is trying to support a theory that Norman is back to his old ways, so when Norman appears, Tracy jumps at the chance to talk with him. Unaware of her ulterior motives, Norman opens up to her but is distracted when Maureen enters. He is startled because she strongly resembles his long-ago victim, Marion Crane. Seeing the initials “M.C.” on her suitcase, Norman panics and leaves the diner.

After a conversation with “Mother,” Norman spies on Maureen as she undresses to take a shower. Keeping her word, “Mother” enters Maureen’s room. Upon pulling back the shower curtain, it is revealed Maureen has attempted suicide by cutting her wrists, a sight which snaps Norman back to his “normal” side. Due to blood loss, Maureen hallucinates. She mistakes Norman, dressed up as “Mother,” for the Virgin Mary holding a silver crucifix.

Norman gets Maureen to the hospital. After she is released, he invites her to stay back at the motel and they begin a romantic relationship.

Duane picks up a girl called “Red” at a bar. They head to Bates Cabin 12 and make out. Red makes it clear she wants more than just a fling and calls him a “pig” when he refuses. Infuriated, Duane throws her out. Red tries to call a cab, but “Mother” shatters the phone booth door and stabs Red to death…


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The film received mixed to positive reviews from critics when first released. Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars, stating: “Any movie named ‘Psycho III’ is going to be compared to the Hitchcock original, but Perkins isn’t an imitator. He has his own agenda. He has lived with Norman Bates all these years, and he has some ideas about him, and although the movie doesn’t apologize for Norman, it does pity him. For the first time, I was able to see that the true horror in the “Psycho” movies isn’t what Norman does — but the fact that he is compelled to do it”.

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” …Perkins’ performance remains as delicate and hypnotic as ever: the masterstroke of the original, still shakily retained here, is the depiction of the murderer as the only humane, decent morally untainted character in the vicinity of the Bates Motel, and Perkins plays off this with several chilly moving little moment that depends on the other characters and the audience’s hope that the likeable young man can stay sane despite a world that forever contrives to drive him mad again.” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

“Not awful, but no classic, this watchable effort benefits from a still spunky performance by Perkins (who also directed) and Scarwid (from 1977’s interesting horror The Possessed et al) […] Nice, but lacks the class Hitch would have given it.” The Terror Trap

Contemporary reviews:
Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote: “It has a cast of talented, self-effacing actors, who don’t upstage the material, and an efficient screenplay by Charles Edward Pogue, who doesn’t beat you over the head to prove that he has a sense of humor.” Ken Hanke of Mountain Xpress called the film a “superior horror sequel stylishly made by star Anthony Perkins”.

Dave Kehr of The Chicago Reader wrote: “Perkins tries to imitate Hitchcock’s visual style, but most of the film is made without concern for style of any kind, unless it’s the bludgeoning non-style of Friday the 13th.”

Variety called the film “dependent almost entirely upon self-referential incidents and attitudes for its effect, and it eventually becomes wearying”.



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