So Bad It’s Good #29 : Psycho 3 (1986)


Guilty Pleasures that we enjoyed – even though we don’t quite know why.

Movie Title : Psycho III
Released 1986
Starring Anthony Perkins, Diana Scarwid, Jeff Fahey, Roberta Maxwell
Directed By Anthony Perkins

What is it? : The horrendously plotted and uber-ridiculous second sequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s timeless masterpiece “Psycho”. Anthony Perkins not only returns as closet nut Norman Bates, but as the film’s new director! With Perkins initially reluctant to reprise his role as Bates for Richard Franklin’s superior “Psycho II” (and only agreeing to once he got wind of the ‘Christopher Walken for Bates’ rumours) it probably goes without saying that the vet no doubt needed further convincing to do a third film in the series (especially one of that isn’t a shade on the previous sequel, and doesn’t even deserve to be related to the original). I’m also certain the director’s appointment was Universal’s way of getting him to sign on. Pity it had to come to that, because Perkins, as good an actor as he may be (though in this he’s a little, er, off), doesn’t deserve to be in charge of a film production. He’s as useless a director as Paris Hilton is a movie star.
Charles Edward Pogue’s script picks up shortly after the events of “Psycho II”, with the community of Fairview still on the hunt for Ms Spool – who’s since retired to a room with a window view at the Bates house.
The motel is back open for business. One of Bates’ guests is a young girl, Maureen (Diana Scarwid), who has left the convent where she lived after accidentally knocking a nun off some steps to her death. Unfortunately for Maureen, she’s a dead-ringer for one of Bates’ previous victims, Marion Crane.
Other new characters include a womanizing Wildman (Jeff Fahey) who Bates employs as the new assistant manager, and a nosey journalist (Roberta Maxwell) who comes to see the, er, Psycho about a story she’s writing on newly rehabilitated murderers.

What’s wrong with it? : What isn’t wrong with it!? The plot is a mess, not to mention absolutely ludicrous, the performances are taut, wooden and forced (in fact, dead Mrs Bates/Spool may give the most credible performance in the film – and she’s not even breathing!), and the direction is far, far less inspired and imaginative than Franklin’s and, of course, Hitchcock’s. Perkins, excellent in the previous two movies, is also rather terrible here. He pauses too much, is too stiff, and seemingly only has one dead expression for most of the movie. He really needs direction – pity he was the one giving it this time around. In addition, though the first hour is fun, the second is mind-numbingly boring… it sorta becomes “Psycho the 13th”. Too over-the-top too.

What’s right about it? It’s Perkins as Norman Bates. It’s the Bates Motel. It’s the wonky old house on the hill. And then there’s the awesome Jeff Fahey (who younger viewers will no doubt recognize as the chopper pilot on TVs “Lost”, though we 80s nerds grew up watching him in such genre classics as “Body Parts”, “The Lawnmower Man” and “Parker Kane”) as the scumbag new assistant manager of the motel. There’s also a great soundtrack of lyricless beats playing constantly. There’s also a couple of sensationally fun scenes – one is a near shot-for-shot recreation of the Marion Crane/Shower Scene from the first film, only this time set in a phone box (!), the other is a really inspired moment where the film’s token Marion Crane-look-a-like beats Bates to the punch and… well, see it for yourself. Two great moments that really help the film play that much better.

Why is it so bad it’s good? : Think of it this way, it’s the “Star Trek 5” of “Psycho” series – an ill-fitting chapter that’s laughable and exasperating, but still entertaining. Perkins’ original idea for the film was to film it in black-and-white, and have Duane (Jeff Fahey’s character) be the villain – a nut copying Bates murders from the original film. Maybe that would’ve worked better.