When you play a prolific character multiple times, it can get into your head. Sometimes this can lead to typecasting, others can offer terrific insight in guiding the future for said character, as more material is required to satiate a growing audience appetite. In 1986, it was Perkins’s turn to helm the as director, and with little to no experience beforehand, managed to create an exciting piece of character exploration, and told the next chapter of the continuing Bates saga in Psycho III.
After losing her faith and causing a tragic accident, ex-sister Maurine has nowhere to go. She takes up occupancy at the Bates Motel, the same place where evil-incarnate musician Duane has also taken up a position as assistant to Norman Bates. Bates sees the short-haired blonde and is reminded of Marion Crane almost immediately, eventually the two form an unlikely relationship, but could it lead to love? Meanwhile, a reporter keeps hounding Bates for his story, and the continuing revelations of the last two films. As the pressures mount up on Bates’s fleeting sanity, will Bates be able to redeem himself, or will history repeat itself, again and again?
Staying at the Bates Motel is a collection of new characters, joining some returning cast members, like the Sheriff, who still has no qualms in shooting down any doubts about Norman’s mental health. How these new and returning elements interact is a prime part of what makes Psycho III so intriguing. Tracy is like a born again Rosalind Russell with her wit and determined pursuit of the truth and Duke, who feels a lot like the devil incarnate, with his charisma up there and warped sense of humour. All these newcomers are sent to push Bates further down his supposedly irreversible path. But the focus is on Maureen, the unlikely love interest for Bates, whose similarities to Marion go beyond her name.
As the franchise got much further into the 80s, a lot of the modern aesthetics that Psycho II hinted at were built upon. As much as I liked Goldsmith’s score for the second, the new soundtrack feels modern and distinctive enough to set it apart from the other attempts. Going fully in a synthesised direction does give the score a unique and catchy vibe. A lot of interesting neon lighting is ever-present giving some scenes an almost graphic novel look, it is visually impressive. The themes are still there, Bates’s sanity is still on topic, and the disappearance of Spool and the shocking bombshell she dropped from the last film is still present.
Perkins’s debut in the director’s chair is a captivating and creatively rich look at an intriguing character. With some newer challenges and old secrets for a broken Bates to deal with. Its modern touches help bring a new sound and colour to the franchisee, one that could be compared to the glorious technicolour approach 12 years later. Those who have been entertained by II will certainly be on board for their next stay at the motel, we get a fun ending to three years worth of wondering. If you can accept the changes that the decade has brought with it, Psycho III shows some classics can still retain their charm.
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