Sunday, 25 January 2015

Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho Film Review

 Fig. 1. Psycho poster.

Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) is a work of art, with a mammoth twist that will leave you shocked. With lots of clever usage of the camera and brilliant performances by the actors, Psycho is a film that will leave you on the edge of your seat.

Fig. 2. Shower still.

Psycho is famously known for its shower scene, in which the Marion is brutally murdered. Hitchcock is able to create a disturbing murder without actually showing much, at no point do we see Marion penetrated by the knife, in fact you see very little of the knife. With clever use of camera and a haunting stabbing score by Bernard Herrmann, Hitchcock forces the viewer to fill in the gaps, merely suggesting that the murder is taking place, he allows the viewer’s minds to run free. As Kermode points out in his review, ‘Designer Saul Bass's preparatory storyboards so closely detail every moment of the sequence that some have suggested he should share directorial credit with Hitchcock.’ (Kermode, 2013). As Kermode suggests, an unsung hero for the success of this scene is Saul Bass. Some people will argue that the success is hugely influenced by Herrmann’s score, that tells you how uncomfortable you should be feeling, however this scene would not be as impactful if it wasn’t for each of these aspects, the planning, the shoots and the score work in harmony to create a murder scene that will live on in the minds of its viewers.

The structure of the film is also incredible, for the opening half of the film you are made to believe that Marion is the protagonist. You feel connected to her and start to feel scared for her as she runs away with the $40,000 that she steals from work. Up until the shower scene you have someone to feel connected to, but after her demise you are left distant from what is happening. As Brayton states in his review ‘it promises that it will be a film about Marion and then sucker punches the viewer, and never permits us to recover our footing.’ (Brayton, 2012). The scene never gives us time to process what has happened, who has killed Marion and who are we meant to connect with now. The film continues to play out, building suspense, leaving the viewer wondering when the killer will be caught and how many more people will die.

Psycho has an incredible twist that is still shocking now; the ending reveal adds a whole new depth to this horror film. Hitchcock leaves you guessing for most of the film, uses clever camera angles to keep the truth hidden and slyly hints at what is actually happening. ‘Hitchcock is the puppet master in this film and keeps the audience on baited breath throughout the entire story which leads up to the haunting final moments of the film in which we stare into the face of the monster.’ (Vasquez Jr, 2013). As Vasquez Jr suggests in his review, the viewers are merely puppets being led by the master of suspense, Hitchcock makes us wait, until we are finally able to see the face of the monster. It is particularly impressive how Hitchcock hides this curveball, in the scene in which the private detective is murdered, the camera springs into a life of its own and gives us an aerial view of the murder. This disguises the ‘mother’ making it appear that she is in fact the murderer.

Fig. 3. Taxidermy still.

It is suggested that Hitchcock put some bird referencing in as a subliminal message, as he would later release The Birds (1963). The biggest suggestion to this is Norman’s unusual hobby of taxidermy; his office is filled with stuffed birds.

With clever use of camera shots and a terrifyingly chilling score, Hitchcock’s Psycho is a film that should be seen by any film lover. With a haunting message that anyone can be a murderer, even the boy next door. This film will leave you always questioning how safe your shower is and has an amazing twist that will leave you shocked.

Illustration list:
Hitchcock, A. (1960). Figure 1. Psycho poster. (Accessed on 25/01/2015)
Hitchcock, A. (1960). Figure 2. Shower still. (Accessed on 25/01/2015)
Hitchcock, A. (1960). Figure 3. Taxidermy still. (Accessed on 25/01/2015)

Brayton, T. (2012). (Accessed on 25/01/2015)
Kermode, M. (2013). (Accessed on 25/01/2015)
Vasquez Jr, F. (2013). (Accessed on 25/01/2015)