Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Film Review: Psycho (1960)

Psycho (1960) is a film that fluctuates between genres of film. However, it is the starting point of all the 'slasher' films that are in existence today. As reviewer Eric Meyerson suggests,"Psycho has inspired and influenced several decades of movie killers murdering pretty young objects" Meyerson, Film Review. Psycho

Fig1: Psycho Film Poster

It begins with the story of a woman named Marion Crane who steals forty thousand dollars from a client as she requires money in order to wed her lover.
She drives to a car dealer and exchanges her car for a new one. She is followed by a police officer who smells a rat but loses her when it begins to rain. Due to the rain, Marion stops at a motel called Bates Motel. It is a (now) characteristic seedy motel that is the perfect location for crime.
The owner of the motel is a man called Norman Bates who lives with his mentally ill mother. Norman invites Marion to dine with him. In the time when he goes to his house (which is adjacent to the motel)
she overhears a conversation between him and his mother. Norman seems distressed when he returns and Marion suggests that his mother be institutionalized if she is that great a bother.
Norman states that he would like to but he cannot bring himself to abandon her.
Later that evening, Marion is stabbed to death in the shower with a score playing in the background that is all too familiar to the audience of today due to it's use in many a parody of the same scene.
The nudity in this film has been done tactfully so as to avoid any frowns from the censor board.
The cinematography in this film is particularly gripping as the camera moves various objects of significance in and out of the frame.

Fig 2: The Famous Shower Murder

The body of Marion is stowed into the boot of her car and drowned in a pit of quicksand by Norman who wishes to cover up for his mother.
Due to the disappearance of Marion, her sister Lila and Marion's fiancee Sam hire a private detective to go look for her. He traces her to The Bates Motel and gets too close to discovering the truth and is thus killed by what appears to be an old woman with a knife who reviewer Boseley Crowther states as being "deft at creeping up with a knife and sticking holes into people, drawing considerable blood." Crowther,Bosley. 1960. New York Times Film Review. Psycho.
A major element of suspense is the mother of Norman Bates. The audience is not given the opportunity to view her anterior until the very end.
Finally, not getting a response from the private detective, Lila and Sam decide to go and investigate the motel themselves. Sam distracts Norman while Lila investigates his house. During this time, the camera shifts from her face to the view she would hold. This is essential in generating a sense of tension among the audience.

Fig 3: The Hous of Norman Bates

She later discovers that Norman's mother is a corpse and that Norman has been pretending to be the personality of his mother and himself due to the guilt he possesses for killing her.
 Ultimately, Norman is captured dressed as an old woman and is taken to jail where he is 'psycho' analised.
The end of the film is a voiceover of the voice of Norman's mother in his head. The personality of the mother has taken over. This puts the viewer in mind of the little boy in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980) where he converses with his imaginary friend Tony.
Psycho is a film that brings to light the complexity of the human mind and the strangeness that dwells within it. As reviewer Bill Weber rightly states,"its power is not just that of a showman's calibrated scare machine, but of a somber fugue on the trapped 20th-century creatures who inhabit its world, clawing but never budging an inch." Weber,Bill.2010. Slant Magazine Film Review.Psycho.


Weber,Bill.2010. Slant Magazine Film Review.Psycho.  Available online at Accessed on 8th February 2012

Meyerson, Film Review. Psycho Available online at Accessed on 8th February 2012

Crowther,Bosley. 1960. New York Times Film Review. Psycho. Available online at
Accessed on 8th February 2012

Kubrick,Stanley.1980.The Shining

Illustration List

Figure 1: Hitchcock Alfred.1960. Psycho Available online at Accessed on 8th February 2012

Figure 2:Hitchcock Alfred.1960. Psycho Available online at Accessed on 8th February 2012

Figure 3:Hitchcock Alfred.1960. Psycho Available online at Accessed on 8th February 2012

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