Thoughts on “Psycho 3”

This is the third movie in that four-pack of “Psycho” movies, and is a direct sequel to “Psycho 2”, by which I mean that it follows pretty much directly on — with a bit of a gap in time — from the second movie.  Norman seems to have returned to his ways from the original movie, but we start by following a novice in a convent who with the “encouragement” of one of the head nuns sees herself as too evil to become one and so attempts suicide, but as the nuns try to keep her from jumping out of the steeple she accidentally pushes one to her death.  Given the trauma of this, she runs away and meets up with a shady character, who gives her a ride but then tries to have sex with her, so she runs away again and ends up making her way to town, where she meets a priest who wants to help her.  Meanwhile, the shady guy ends up getting a job at the Bates Motel to earn the money to fix his car, and it is made clear early that he’s willing to cheat and steal to get that (he originally is tempted to steal money from the register, and later pockets some while checking people in).  Later, the former novice ends up staying at the motel as well, and she and Norman take a liking to each other, which obviously annoys the mother persona.  There’s also a reporter around trying to prove that Norman is killing again.  All of this comes together with the motel being booked for a big party, and Norman as his mother kills a random woman again.  The shady guy figures this out, and attempts to blackmail Norman, who then kills him as well.  The former nun had been scared away from Norman by the reporter, but then returns to help him but when Norman is distracted by the voice of his mother (in his head) he accidentally kills her.  The reporter shows up to investigate and insist that Norman’s “real mother” isn’t his real mother, and ultimately with all of the trauma Norman attacks and dismembers the “real mother’s” preserved body, and when he’s to be taken back to the asylum he notes that he will be locked up for the rest of his life but is finally free, presumably of his mother.  But then it is revealed that he kept her arm and is stroking it with an insane look on his face, implying that he might not be free after all.

This movie is far more of a traditional slasher-style movie, which makes it less interesting than the previous two movies.  Still, it does seem like the “Psycho” setting is a really good one for a more simple slasher movie, so it should work out well.  And Anthony Perkins still does a good job with the character, and so we seem him as being a bit sympathetic, which is important at the end where we ought to feel good at the idea that even if he’s going to be locked away for the rest of his life that he’s finally free of his insanity and his mothers’ influence that drove him to that.  In addition, the novice character is also nice and seems sympathetic so we’d like her to have some kind of happy ending and having her be killed not by Norman’s mother’s personality but by accident helps to keep him sympathetic and fits well with him still blaming his mother for the death without it actually being him who directly did it, as he resists attacking her right before the accident.

That being said, a lot of the movie is overstuffed.  The entire party scene is unnecessary and just adds some extra pointless and annoying scenes and another random kill.  If they felt they needed another random kill — and I don’t think they did — they could have done that in another way without including the party.  The reporter is also mostly extraneous, as all she does is reveal Norman’s past to the former novice and stupidly comes there to confront him over his “real mother” not being his real mother and, it seems, ends up being the one to report him to the police.  But all of that could have been in other ways without creating a specific named character and giving her screen time to do that, and the character herself is annoying especially since even though he’s a serial killer Norman is far more sympathetic to the audience than she is.  She doesn’t end up being killed by Norman, but she doesn’t really seem to have a main goal that she satisfies at the end other than proving that Norman is killing again, but she has no personal reason to do that as far as the movie goes and for her to do that to gain professional advantage isn’t going to go over well since, again, Norman is sympathetic for a serial killer, especially if you watched the second movie.  Fortunately, she kinda fades out of the movie at the end.

But given the above, I think it would have worked better to remove her and the party altogether and, more importantly, to not have Norman be caught at the end of the movie.  The idea that he is finally free and so might finally be cured (er, again) because his mother made him kill the woman that he had a great connection to and who only wanted to help him is a heartwarming one for a sympathetic character, and makes a great counterpoint with the second movie where it was a similar situation but at the end that character believed that he was killing people again and was going to kill her when he wasn’t.  Here, he was killing again and the former novice still wanted to help him, and only died due to a tragic accident caused in large part “by his mother”, which then spawns the rejection of what he adopted at the end of the previous movie and results in potentially his really ending the murders.  If the movie wanted to imply that maybe he wasn’t really better as the last scene does, they could easily have done that and left it vague about whether or not he was truly cured.  Because it’s clear that Norman is insane and not hostile or evil on his own, we don’t really need an ending where he faces justice for his crimes.  Throughout the last two movies he’s always been far more sympathetic than any of the victims, and so we don’t really want to side with them or their families to see justice done.  We want him to stop killing people and get better, and we know that he isn’t really responsible for his crimes because of his insanity.

This sympathy comes about because Anthony Perkins does such a good job with the character — especially when the character is unequivocally Norman — but also because it does what we don’t normally see in slasher movies and focuses a lot on that character and lets us find out a lot about him.  We know why he does what he does, what caused him to be the way he is, and how hard he tries at times to overcome all of this.  This means that we are more interested in getting a happy ending for him and feel that it’s more tragic when he fails.  Given that, as noted above ending the movie with him finally feeling, at least, free would be quite satisfying as an ending even if he isn’t brought to justice.  Plus, for those who want him brought to justice they can easily assume that someone found out about it — the priest, for example, knew that the novice headed there — and that that all happened after the movie ended.

This movie, overall, isn’t as good as the previous two, but Anthony Perkins as Norman and the novice character work well to keep the movie interesting, and the resolution of their plots works pretty well.  The movie has some extraneous characters but it still works well enough to be worth rewatching, especially if I wanted to sit down and watch the previous two.


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