Picks and Pans Review: Psycho Iii

updated 07/21/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/21/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Alfred Hitchcock's stunning 1960 original made the world safe for maniac movie murderers. The entertaining first sequel in 1983 was part homage to the original, part send-up. This, however, is an aggravated case of overkill. Tony Perkins has not only returned to play the schizophrenic Norman Bates; he directed this time, from a screenplay by stage actor Charles Edward Pogue. Norman having reverted to his homicidal tendencies at the end of No. II, there weren't many directions a new plot could take, and this film indeed goes nowhere. We're right back at the Bates Motel for what amounts to a classy slice-and-dice chiller. There are a couple of sly touches, though one of them—Perkins, dressed in murderous drag as his own mother, is mistaken for the Virgin Mary—will not seem amusing to everyone. Mostly, however, this one is played for its scary moments, all of which pale beside the memory of the terrifying original. Perkins even uses some footage from Hitchcock's often-cited scene in which Janet Leigh is killed in the shower, as if to invite invidious comparisons. As Norman, Perkins still does all that twitchy, halting business. Diana (Silkwood) Scarwid adopts an intriguing beatific demeanor as a woman who wanders into the motel. And in the movie's best development, Jeff (Silverado) Fahey plays a drifter who is nearly as insane as Perkins and far less scrupulous. The violence is overly graphic though, and the dialogue only routine. Like a lazy relative the movie seems to be sponging off the success of its forebears. (R)

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