Shortly after the events of Psycho II, Norman (Anthony Perkins) is still having mummy issues. With his motel now busier than ever, a young ex-nun arrives, who has fled her convent after inadvertently killing one of her colleagues. Struggling to survive in the outside world, she finds a confidante in the troubled Mr Bates.
There comes a point in slasher movie sequels where it starts to feel like an episode of Scooby Doo. The killings happen with a tedious inevitability that results in the person you least expected being behind the mask, and the same is certainly true here. Made just three years after Psycho II, not enough has changed to give this film a distinct feel, with it appearing more like a rerun of part two, as Norman’s sanity remains ambiguous and the dress and wig clad killer returns.
It doesn’t take as many leaps of implausibility as the second part, which is good, but is also not different enough to be that interesting. Anthony Perkins is once again on form, however, making this film worth watching if only for his performance. In spite of the declining quality of Psycho‘s sequels, they serve to show what a fascinating character Norman is as he remains interesting and likeable throughout. The quality of the character left over from Hitchcock’s original at least makes these sequels stand out.
Perkins also directs here, which presumably played some role in his decision to return, after his reluctance in Psycho II and the subsequent critical mauling it received. There are some very effective scenes, and the acting has improved thanks to Meg Tilly not being in it.
Norman is something of an antihero as his often questionable actions always feel the result of best intentions on his part, and in spite of the acts he commits, we never hate Norman, we pity him. In a recent blog I wrote on mental illness in film I used Norman as a bad representation of mental illness, primarily because of his serial killing.
What Psycho II and III do is make sure we understand his precarious mental state, and without justifying his actions make us at least have sympathy for the character because of the things he’s gone through. This turns Norman from one of the worst, to a far better example of mental illness, as he isn’t an evil monster, but a victim. A victim who is trying hard to change but is continually tormented by those around him, hampering his progress.
Altogether this is an interesting extension of Norman as a character and benefits from Perkins’ performance, resulting in a film roughly on a par with part 2. If you enjoy finding out what happens to this brilliant character this will interest you, even if it stays well under the extremely long shadow cast by the original.