- Director: Alfred Hitchcock
- Writers: Joseph Stefano (Screenplay), Robert Bloch (Based on Novel)
- Composers: Bernard Herrmann
- Key Actors: Anthony Perkins (Norman Bates), Janet Leigh (Marion Crane), John Gaven (Sam Loomis)
Marion Crane, on the lam after stealing $40,000 from her employer in order to run away with her boyfriend, Sam Loomis, is overcome by exhaustion during a heavy rainstorm. Traveling on the back roads to avoid the police, she stops at the Bates Motel and meets the polite but highly strung proprietor Norman Bates—a young man with an interest in taxidermy and a difficult relationship with his mother.
When it comes to thrillers, I really only want one thing and that’s to be, well, thrilled. I want the suspense to eat me alive. I want to be on the edge of my seat, or not even on a seat if it comes down to it. And I’m sure Hitchcock desired the same from his audience. After all, he went as far as to purchase every novel of Pyscho just to keep its climatic twist unbeknownst to the public until the movie’s release. Hell, he even prevented moviegoers from entering theaters mid-screening, which, at the time, was a “daring presentation policy” on his accord. Reason was, Hitchcock didn’t want moviegoers to pay simply because of Janet Leigh’s prestige as an actor. He wanted them to pay for the art of viewing horror.
Psycho cut right to the chase, both figuratively and literally. As soon as Marion booked it with her forty-thousand, the film made sure to keep its audience in a constant state of distress, panic and fright by asserting us into Marion’s shoes—a frightened, ordinary woman encumbered in the guilt of her criminal predicament. Ultimately, I believe Psycho’s suspenseful impact was primarily derived from Marion’s unremarkable normalcy and situation. Marion brang uncanny life to fears that haven’t hesitated to cross our minds, such as the fear of impulsively committing a crime, the fear of the police, the fear of madness, et cetera. Psycho took said fears and subtlety integrated them into a believable narrative, and that’s where Psycho made its audience vulnerable: By outlining their subconscious fears and using them to its advantage. Psycho didn’t utilize elaborate scares or dramatic conflicts to terrorize its audience, but simply our own psyche.
Psycho’s climatic twist didn’t hit so well because it was conceptually astonishing or brilliantly shot, but because it subtlety, however strongly confronted simple yet humane fears—such as fears of abandonment, fears of disappointing loved ones (in this case, mothers), fears of loss, fears of becoming victim to insanity, et cetera—and outlined them horrifically. Even after writing this multiple days upon viewing, my emotions and thoughts on Psycho are still very alive and remarkable, contrary to most horror flicks I’ve seen and forgotten.
While Psycho is far from fancy, its presentation of commonplace, however striking fears was nearly perfect. The only item I would prefer altered in Psycho was its nauseating use of its primary soundtrack. It was used so often to the point of comedic effect, and the timing at which it was used was often ill and atrociously abrupt. However, the theme’s a bop in and of itself, so who the fuck cares? I like this Bernard Herrmann fellow.