Psycho III

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Psycho III
Psycho 3 poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAnthony Perkins
Produced byHilton A. Green
Written byCharles Edward Pogue
Music byCarter Burwell
CinematographyBruce Surtees
Edited byDavid Blewitt
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • July 2, 1986 (1986-07-02)
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$8.4 million[1]
Box office$14.4 million

Psycho III is a 1986 American slasher film, and the third film in the Psycho franchise. It stars Anthony Perkins, who also directs the film, reprising the role of Norman Bates. It co-stars Diana Scarwid, Jeff Fahey, and Roberta Maxwell. The screenplay is written by Charles Edward Pogue. The original electronic music score is composed and performed by Carter Burwell in one of his earliest projects. Psycho III is unrelated to Robert Bloch's third Psycho novel, Psycho House, which was released in 1990.

The film takes place one month after the events of Psycho II where Norman Bates is still running the Bates Motel with the corpse of Emma Spool still sitting up in the house. A suicidal nun, with whom Norman falls in love, comes to the motel along with a drifter named Duane Duke. A reporter also tries to solve the mysterious disappearance of Mrs. Spool as someone begins another murder spree.

Released on July 2, 1986, Psycho III grossed $14.4 million at the U.S. box office on a budget of $8.4 million, becoming a financial failure and the lowest-grossing film in the series. It received mixed reviews from critics and was followed by a television prequel, Psycho IV: The Beginning.


In 1982, Norman Bates works at the Bates Motel and lives with the preserved corpse of Emma Spool, a waitress who told him she was his real mother. When Spool remains missing after a month, Norman's ex-boss, Ralph Statler, and local law enforcement grow concerned. Duane Duke, a sleazy musician desperate for money, is offered the job of assistant manager at the motel. Tracy Venable, a journalist from Los Angeles, is working on an article about serial killers being released from custody. Believing that Norman is killing again, Tracy appears at the diner where he works and attempts to talk with him. Norman opens up to her but is distracted when Maureen Coyle, a young, mentally unstable former nun, enters. Maureen resembles his former victim, Marion Crane. Seeing the initials "M.C." on her suitcase, Norman panics and leaves the diner.

"Mother" enters Maureen's bathroom that night, intending to kill her, only to find that she has cut her wrists. The shock of this causes Norman to reassert his personality while a delirious Maureen mistakes "Mother" holding a knife for the Virgin Mary holding a crucifix. Norman brings Maureen to a hospital and offers that she stay as long as she needs to. After she is released, they begin a romantic relationship. That night, Duane picks up a girl named Red at a bar, but after Red makes it clear that she wants more than a fling, Duane rejects her. Red tries calling a cab, but "Mother" shatters the phone booth door and stabs Red to death. The following day, tourists arrive at the motel, planning to watch a football game. Tracy searches Spool's apartment, discovering the motel's phone number written on a magazine cover repeatedly.

Patsy Boyle, the motel's only sober guest, is murdered by "Mother". Norman finds her body and buries her in the motel's ice chest. The next morning, Sheriff Hunt and Deputy Leo appear to investigate Patsy's disappearance. Tracy tells Maureen about Norman's past, causing Maureen to stay with Father Brian, who took care of her at the hospital. Norman finds that Spool's corpse is missing and finds a note stating that she is in Cabin 12. Duane extorts Norman, threatening to turn him into the police for murder unless he is given a large sum of money. In an ensuing fight, Norman beats Duane with his guitar until he loses consciousness. Norman drives his car to the swamp with Duane and Patsy's bodies inside. Duane regains consciousness and attacks Norman, who accidentally drives into the swamp. Norman escapes the car while Duane drowns.

Tracy talks to Statler about Spool and discovers she was working at the diner before Statler purchased it from Harvey Leach. Tracy meets with Leach, a resident at an assisted living facility, and is informed that Spool was also institutionalized for murder. Maureen convinces herself that Norman is her true love and returns to the motel. They share a tender moment at the top of the staircase when "Mother" shouts furiously at Norman, startling him. He loses his grip on Maureen's hands, causing her to fall down the stairs, killing her. Enraged, Norman promises "Mother" that he will get her for this. Tracy enters the house and finds Maureen dead, then sees Norman dressed as "Mother" bearing a knife, but is unable to flee.

Tracy tries reasoning with Norman by explaining his family history: Emma Spool was his aunt and was in love with Norman's father, but he married her sister, Norma. Spool killed Norman's father and kidnapped Norman when he was a child, believing he was the child "she should have had with him". When she was caught, Norman was returned to Norma while Spool was institutionalized. Tracy discovers Spool's corpse in the bedroom. Norman takes off his dress. "Mother" orders him to kill Tracy, but when Norman raises the knife, he attacks "Mother" instead, dismembering Spool's corpse. Sheriff Hunt takes Norman to his squad car. Hunt informs Norman that he'll never get out of the institution again, to which Norman replies: "But I'll be free...I'll finally be free." In the back of the squad car, Norman caresses the severed hand of Emma Spool.



Psycho III:
Music from the Motion Picture
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedJuly 1986
LabelMCA Records
ProducerCarter Burwell
Singles from Psycho III
  1. "Scream of Love"
    Released: July 1986

All tracks are written by Carter Burwell, except where noted[2].

Side one
1."Scream of Love (Theme Song From the Motion Picture Psycho III)"Carter Burwell/David Sanborn/Steve Bray3:47
2."Maureen in the Desert" 1:56
3."Dirty Street"Carter Burwell/Stanton-Miranda/Steve Bray3:37
4."Before and After Shower" 3:36
5."Warm as a Cry for Help" 2:20
Side two
6."Sisters/Catherine Mary"Carter Burwell/Stanton-Miranda/Steve Bray4:13
7."Mother?" 2:45
8."Bad Boys and Body Bags" 3:53
9."Revenge of a Thankless Child" 2:47
10."Electroshock Waiting Room" 1:45

Carter Burwell was approached by Perkins to compose the score to the film, since Perkins had enjoyed Burwell's work on Blood Simple. Perkins stated that he wanted to take the score in a more contemporary direction than Jerry Goldsmith had for his more traditional score for Psycho II. Burwell flew to Los Angeles and recorded the score largely on a Synclavier electronic music station, augmented by women's and boys' choirs as well as percussion by Steve Forman.[3]

After Universal suggested the film contain some pop songs so that the film could be marketable to the MTV generation, Burwell composed and performed songs with colleagues Stanton Miranda and Steve Bray. After Universal claimed the songs weren't sufficiently bankable, Burwell attempted to create a song with Oingo Boingo frontman and then burgeoning film composer Danny Elfman, using sampled strings from Bernard Herrmann's score to the original Psycho. This idea was also rejected.[3]

Universal finally agreed to let Burwell take a motif from the score he'd composed and develop it into an instrumental electronic pop song. The song, "Scream of Love"—co-written by jazz saxophonist David Sanborn—was released as a 7" single and a series of dance remixes were commissioned from Arthur Baker and featured on the 12" version. MCA also commissioned a music video for the song featuring Burwell, Perkins and a "Hitchcockian woman." Perkins introduced the video on MTV as a guest VJ on July 2, 1986.[3] The rest of the songs composed by Burwell, Miranda and Bray were used as background music in the film, playing from car stereos and jukeboxes.

Burwell's score was sampled by the hip hop group Insane Poetry on "Welcome to the Grim Side", the intro to their 1992 debut album Grim Reality, as well as on British musician Aim's 1999 electronica album, Cold Water Music.


When the film opened on July 2, 1986, it earned $3.2 million in its opening weekend and went on to gross $14.4 million at the domestic box office, becoming the lowest-grossing theatrical film of the Psycho series.[4]

Critical response[edit]

Reviews from critics were mixed. Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote a generally positive review, calling Perkins a "very creditable director" and Pogue's screenplay "efficient," concluding that "'Psycho III' expresses its appreciation of the Hitchcock legacy without seeming to rip it off."[5] Variety wrote that the film "has its moments—about 20 minutes' worth—but the rest is filler in which the filmmakers gamely but futilely try to breathe new life into a tired body."[6] Michael Wilmington of the Los Angeles Times thought that the film was "better in most respects than 'II'," but "it fails any sequel's acid test. It feeds off the original without deepening it." He added that "if the movie proves anything, it's that everyone should give Hitchcock a rest."[7] Paul Attanasio of The Washington Post called it "a playful, artfully made horror movie" made "really fun" by "Perkins and Pogue's morbid humor, the way they've captured the Hitchcock spirit and made it their own."[8] Tom Milne of The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote that Perkins gave "an excellent performance" but "there isn't very much more to be said about Norman Bates."[9]

Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert were split on the film's effectiveness. On their television show At the Movies, Ebert gave the film a "thumbs up" positive appraisal, saying it was a "much better movie than part two," and adding, "in his first directing effort, Perkins shows that he knows Norman better than anyone else." Siskel, however, gave the film a "thumbs down" negative rating, reasoning that he was "turned off by some of the violence" and that the film "just sort of laid there."[10]

As of January 2021, the film holds a 60% approval rating based on 20 reviews on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 5.5/10.[11]

Home media[edit]

Psycho III has been released four times on DVD. The initial release came in 1999 when Universal Studios leased the film out to GoodTimes Home Video.[12] The second release came in 2005 from Universal Studios itself.[13] The third release came in 2007 as part of a triple feature package with Psycho II and Psycho IV: The Beginning.[14] On September 24, 2013, Shout Factory released a special edition on DVD and Blu-ray.[15]


  1. ^ "AFI|Catalog".
  2. ^ "Carter Burwell - Psycho III (Music From The Motion Picture)". Discogs.
  3. ^ a b c Burwell, Carter. "Carter Burwell - Psycho III".
  4. ^ "Psycho III". Retrieved 2011-04-17.
  5. ^ Canby, Vincent (July 2, 1986). "Film: Anthony Perkins in 'Psycho III'". The New York Times: C15.
  6. ^ "Psycho III". Variety: 13. July 2, 1986.
  7. ^ Wilmington, Michael (July 2, 1986). "'Psycho III' Still Getting Nourishment From Original". Los Angeles Times. Part VI, p. 10.
  8. ^ Attanasio, Paul (July 4, 1986). "The Norman Conquest". The Washington Post: C1, C2. Retrieved October 30, 2018.
  9. ^ Milne, Tom (November 1986). "Psycho III". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 53 (634): 342.
  10. ^ "At the Movies: Psycho III review". YouTube. Retrieved 2018-02-12.
  11. ^ "Psycho III".
  12. ^ "Psycho III (DVD)". Retrieved 2011-04-17.
  13. ^ "Psycho III (DVD)". Retrieved 2011-04-17.
  14. ^ "Psycho II / Psycho III / Psycho IV: The Beginning (Triple Feature)". Retrieved 2011-04-17.
  15. ^ "Psycho III".

External links[edit]