For many years, I have enjoyed the horror genre of film, particularly the Universal Monsters era through the slashers of the 1980s. Though I was old enough to notice Freddy mania and Jason’s reign, I never saw any of the plethora of splatter-filled horror releases during that era, and was disturbed by the VHS artwork when walking by the horror section of the local video rental store. My parents, who introduced me to horror, were nevertheless firm about me and my sister not seeing R-rated movies as children, and rightfully so. The earliest “scary” flicks I remember viewing were already aged – Hammer Dracula films, Cold War sci-fi, Godzilla, and the aforementioned Universal Monsters series. It was later in high school, and then through my horror nut friend, Ken, that I went gung-ho for the art and caught up on the gory classics.
Horror properties are notorious for multiple sequels, yet often times I prefer the follow-ups. They can surprise and be more entertaining than the originals, even if they usually are of questionable quality and exist mainly as cash grabs. An example is the Friday the 13th franchise. The first deserves its standing in history, but I’ve watched Part 3, The Final Chapter, A New Beginning, and Jason Lives far more times. Sequels can also tank the reputations of respected series and exhaust their welcome in our culture. Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II were finely created, disturbing films, yet each successor was generally worse and failed to entertain me. There are several horror sequels I genuinely enjoy, despite majorities opining otherwise. These films are currently ranked no higher than 6/10 on IMDb, and on Rotten Tomatoes, have a “rotten” consensus or an average user rating of 3/5 or less. These criteria will be used to identify films generally considered inferior.
Psycho III (1986)
In 1986, following 1983’s successful and praiseworthy Psycho II, Anthony Perkins took control of the franchise to direct and again reprise his role as Norman Bates in Psycho III. This entry emulates the slashers of the time with more blood, nudity, and a comedic element throughout. I saw Norman Bates as a living cartoon at this point, though Perkins was still entertaining and seemed accepting of his typecast career. After all, he made several other films in which he played variations of Bates such as Edge of Sanity and the recommended Pretty Poison with co-star Tuesday Weld. Speaking of Weld, Perkins sure was lucky to have starred with such gorgeous actresses, including also Jane Fonda, Brigitte Bardot, Ava Gardner, and… okay, back to Psycho III. The story involves a suicidal, emotional runaway nun whose arrival reminds Bates of Marion Crane and evokes a guilt ridden, mother-disapproved lust / love within his mind. I felt sorry for Bates, as I wanted his mutual romance to succeed and his mental illness to subside. Alas, it would not be a Psycho film if so. The iconic motel is still in operation, with a new sleazy employee, and rare guests, including a group of rowdy sports fans, and the fallen sister. A reporter is involved, investigating and suspecting Norman is killing again, and had killed his real mother, Emma Spool. The humor is consistent throughout, like when we see Norman’s bird feeder laced with poison to acquire taxidermy subjects, the ice machine gag, and an absurd sex scene in the motel. Bates’ conversations with Mother are also chuckle inducing as is Perkins’ anxious, exaggerated performance. III is notable as an example of a trendsetting and innovative franchise transformed into a follower to compete with the newer crop of cinema murderers. I don’t dislike this, as it’s satisfying to see an old slasher prove he can keep up with Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and other competition.
I agree with the consensus and rank Psycho as a classic. Three sequels, one worthless remake, and two Bates Motel TV shows will never threaten its superiority. Overall, III is my third favorite Psycho film, after Hitchcock’s and II. I don’t recommend IV: The Beginning, other than for diehards, and Bates Motel, the first, is a curiosity, but doesn’t follow canon or feature Norman Bates. The remake is an insult, and I have respect for the current TV prequel, but have only seen a few episodes.
To continue celebrating Halloween 2015, I will soon revisit another weak, but entertaining, film in Favorite Inferior Horror Sequels Part II.