"Psycho" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
Everyone is familiar with the iconic shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 horror masterpiece, "Psycho". Not only does it change the tone for the entire film, but it changes the way horror movies are viewed forever. This may be the most famous scene in the entire movie, and perhaps the most famous scene in horror film history, but this entire film is a masterclass in horror, led by a legendary director and featuring a great performance by the cast.
The film opens on Marion Crane (Janet Leigh, who is the mother of the scream queen herself, Jamie Lee Curtis) and Sam Loomis (John A. Gavin) in a hotel room after a lunch-time rendezvous. They make plans to run away and start their life together as they don't want to be apart for any longer. When Marion is handed a $40,000 deposit for a house at her job, she decides to steal the money and run away from her work, ready to start her life with Sam.
On the way to meet Sam, she is paranoid after an encounter with a police officer, forcing her to pull over at Bates Motel, which sits on the side of a road no one goes down anymore. The quaint hotel is fully vacant, and is ran by a young man named Norman (Anthony Perkins), who lives with his mom in the house on the hill behind the hotel. However, when Marion is brutally murdered in the hotel shower, Sam and Marion's sister, Lila (Vera Miles), travel to the hotel to investigate the disappearance of her sister, unknowingly putting their own lives at risk.
The first hour of the film, which is more than half of the runtime, is dedicated to telling Marion's story and her dangerous conquest of getting away with the money. The movie is able to perfectly build up the suspense in that aspect, with the viewer worried that she is going to get caught and in trouble as we want her to succeed. Yet, when she is murdered in the shower, it is so shocking and catches the viewer off guard if they have heard nothing about this film. It is such a drastic and crazy twist, but Hitchcock was able to pull it off seamlessly.
After killing off his main protagonist, he is perfectly able to switch the viewpoint of the story to focus on Sam and Lila. The whole storyline with Marion seems more like a preface or introduction, with Lila and Sam being the main focus of this film and the major plot points moving forward. The viewer goes from feeling worried and concerned for Marion, to instantly switching to being terrified about what is lurking in the shadows in that damp and dark hotel.
I think all of the actors give great performances in this film, especially by Perkins and Leigh. Perkins is a very charming and handsome young man, but he is able to give off that awkward and disturbing personality that many people try to avoid. He wants to be sociable and have friends and acquaintances, but is held back by both his mother and his awkward personality type. On the flip side, Leigh portrays Marion in a way that it makes her lovable and personable, if even only knowing her for a couple of minutes. The actions and feelings that Marion displays don't make her the antagonist in the audiences' eyes, but show her as just being a person who wants a better life than the cards they are dealt.
In regards to the horror and slasher aspects of this film, I think Hitchcock does an excellent job of turning this thriller into a psychological horror film. The shower scene is still shocking and terrifying to this day, and people have cited it to be the reason they are scared of showering by themselves. I definitely applaud Hitchcock for making viewers feel like this, especially in the 1960's where horror was still being introduced to audiences around the world.
Overall, this is perhaps one of the best horror films of all time, and without a doubt, one of the best films Hitchcock ever made. Almost everything about it represents perfect filmmaking, and Hitchcock really knows how to startle and make his audiences feel scared. Even in Black & White and outdated special effects, it still strikes more horror into the audiences than modern horror films.