There isn’t much left to say about Alfred Hitchcock’s seminal masterpiece Psycho that hasn’t already been said. Psycho is a film that had been watched, dissected and discussed since long before I even drew my first breath. Which is for very good reason, as it’s fricking amazing. How much so has only come with repeated viewings and is the kind of film that deserves multiple viewings. I first watched Psycho back in either late 97 or early 98. It was suggested by out local video store clerk after he noticed the large volume of horror movies, primarily Slashers that I had been renting. At the time I liked it, but I didn’t get it. This was a time when body counts needed to be high and killers needed to be menacing. So Psycho’s highly artistic style and Anthony Perkins nuanced performance were completely lost on me. But in the years since I have become a loyal fan of Psycho and by extension the master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock.
The first half of the film follows Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), who is entrusted by her boss with a $ 40,000 ($319,728.38 by today’s standards) cash deposit on a real estate property. She agrees to bring it to the bank and asks for the rest the day off, claiming to not be feeling well. She goes home and quickly packs a bag and flees town with the money, which she plans to give to her boyfriend, Sam Loomis (John Gavin) in California so they can afford to get married. But on her way out of town she is seen by her boss, which makes her nervous. After driving for an undisclosed amount of time Marion pulls over and falls asleep. She awakened by a cop, who quickly becomes suspicious of her behavior. In an attempt to remain undiscovered Marion trades in her car for another paying the difference in cash. She then continues on her way, but gets lost and finds herself and the Bate Motel. The motel is run by Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins), who’s also caring for his sick and insane mother. Norman and Marion have a pleasant enough evening, but the mood shifts becoming sour when his mother is brought up. Marion excuses herself due to being tired and wanting to get to sleep. Norman peeps through a hole in the wall while she changes and gets ready for to take a shower, before heading back up the his house on the hill to check on his mother. While in the shower Marion is brutally attacked and killed. Norman discovers the murder and quickly covers it up. The rest of the film follows Marion’s sister Lila (Vera Miles), Sam and Private Detective Arbogast (Martin Balsam) as they try to find Marion, with all roads leading to The Bates Motel and the mysterious Mrs. Bates…
Like I said there isn’t much to say about a film that is in just about every book on horror (within the film medium). The acting is impeccable, the direction is flawless and the musical score is as memorable as it influential. Watching Psycho you can easily see the influence it’s had on the slasher genre.
As great as Psycho is, I’m not comfortable calling it a slasher in its own right. Yes it helped found the genre, but inspiring something doesn’t make you it. The body count is far too low, with only two deaths in the film. Also the film focus isn’t on the killer, who often play the roles of an anti-hero. Yes the films do shift more than a bit on the front with the films three direct sequels.
Final thoughts, Psycho is a film that I consider a must see and while the films ending is widely known, I do still heavily suggest it if you haven’t seen it. But as Psycho is 55 years old at this point, so maybe you don’t. Which is the case for a more than a few people I know. So whether or not Psycho has been spoiled for you, if you haven’t seen it, take the time you won’t be sorry you did. 10/10