When a fan of Alfred Hitchcock’s original “Psycho” discovers that the film spawned a series of sequels, one can reasonably anticipate some hesitation in accepting the Bates tale as a horror franchise.
Indeed, when a newcomer musters up the gumption to take in “Psycho II,” they might go into it expecting a haphazard pandering mess purely aimed towards the often shallow and uncompelling slasher genre of that era. However, the series’ second entry, while not perfect, steps beyond the cliched realms of a horror sequel and creates a nice, fun mystery story.
The pandering mess of a movie doesn’t manifest until “Psycho III.”
Not to discredit the film or Anthony Perkins as our lead and director, the third installment does have some good ideas in place as our story is established. A troubled nun doubting her own faith, a new employee arriving at the Bates Motel, Norman falling in love – All of these are potentially interesting concepts to work with,
The problem is that these concepts are not quite utilized to their true potential, and many of them are ultimately cast aside in favor of a definite veer towards more trendy and sensational slasher conventions.
But even more troubling is how much Perkins and the film’s writers shoehorn in callbacks to the original Hitchcock movie. Yes, “Psycho” is a classic, and it is understandable to want the audience to be transported back to that initial masterwork, but this is NOT that movie. Nor am I saying that it should be. If a creative team is working on adding another story to a franchise, do something new and inventive. Dwelling on the merits of the past is not going to make anyone like the new piece of work. It may make them wish they were watching THAT movie instead of THIS one, but that might not be your desired impact.
In short, “Psycho III” is quite a flawed film and certainly a step down from the previous entry. Yet it wouldn’t be fair to call it a bad movie either. It’s real crime is that it is very average and unremarkable in a series that started with such flourish.
As a follow-up to “Psycho,” sure, it’s a dud. But as a typical slasher flick, you could definitely do much worse.