A Look Back: Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho

Writing about a film like Psycho is like writing about why eating is important. Psycho is responsible for almost every horror film that came after it. It started something that no other film had done before, it created the slasher genre as we know it.  Anyone who has ever watched Psycho has their own opinion about it, mine however, is that I think this film is perfect in every way.  I believe Psycho is one of the most important films ever made. Amongst all of Hitchcock’s thrillers and suspense films Psycho was his first true horror film, audiences from all around had never experienced such a film in theaters before it.  Psycho changed the face of horror forever.

What Hitchcock did with the character Norman Bates was something that was truly unique.  He took a mamas boy who was very nice, quiet, and wouldn’t hurt a fly and turned him into a monster.  Psycho was one of the first films to portray a completely normal human being as a monster and this terrified audiences. Before Norman Bates, monsters were seen as Werewolves, Vampires and Aliens but he changed that forever, he showed that real humans could be monsters. This film shows the very first serial killer as a young male full of psychological problems which becomes the exact basis of all the other future slasher characters such as Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, Leather Face, and Freddy Krueger.

There are many scenes in Psycho where the Master of Suspense deliberately gets inside your head almost as if he just wants to laugh at you as you squirm in your seat. A perfect example of this is the scene in the movie where Norman sinks the car that has Cranes body in it. Timing here is everything because as the wetlands begin to swallow the car, Hitchcock wants you to think that maybe someone is going to spot Norman doing this and he will get caught. That is simply not the case because that would be much too easy. Instead, the car starts to sink rapidly ,taking that hope from you.  Once the audience accepts this fate the car suddenly stops sinking making you rethink everything all over again.  So here you are saying to yourself “Now what?”  Then just as quickly as you come up with that thought, the car starts to sink again. Hitchcock does this to show you who is in charge… it’s not any of the characters in the movie, it’s Hitchcock, the true master of the genre.

Another thing Hitchcock does is take something everyone does everyday and he turns it into a terrifying place and that is… you guessed it, the shower. The shower scene is one of the most important scenes in the entire film. To show the importance of this single scene in the film Hitchcock used almost 70 different camera angles. What adds to this memorable moment is the masterful score by Bernard Hermann. He uses a scratchy violin sound that could only be compared to nails on a chalk board — something Freddy Krueger himself could appreciate. The combination of Hitchcock and Bernard’s genius work turned out to be one of the scariest and most memorable scenes in all of movie history.

For me personally the final scene of Psycho had the biggest affect on me.  Anthony Perkins who played Norman Bates in the film has such an amazing performance in the end that is beyond scary, it gives me chills every time.  He doesn’t say a single word but his facial expressions say everything as you can hear his mother talking while he is thinking. The last line of the film leaves an everlasting impression and is very unsettling to the audience.

“They’ll see and they’ll know, and they’ll say, Why, she wouldn’t even harm a fly…” 

Psycho is a perfect example of a film that changed things forever in the horror genre. Its combination of horror with a psychological theme was something never seen before.  Turning a normal human being into a monster is truly the scariest thing of all. True horror is what one human being can do to another.

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If you are ever attacked by a gorilla just sit back and relax while you enjoy the once in a life time feeling of your limbs being ripped off.

2 thoughts on “A Look Back: Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho

  1. It still terryfing so many years after its release. I recall the scene when the Martin Balsam character is on the huge stairs and Hitchcock has his camera looking down at him. Thanks for bringing this one to mind.

    jmm

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