Psycho Film Evaluation
Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho showcases all of his filmmaking skill and ingenuity. There are surprises around every corner, and incredibly innovative cinematic elements. A large part of this revolves around the story. Highlighted aspects of the story like terror, violence, and sex were generally avoided by filmmakers during Hitchcock’s time. However, he embraced the idea of stepping outside of the norm.
As the film begins, we expect it to follow Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), a quiet real estate employee who is having a secret love affair with a man named Sam Loomis (John Gavin). Soon, Crane goes on the run with $40,000 in stolen cash and makes her way out of town, stopping for the night at the Bates Motel. Here, we meet the true focus of the story, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). He acts as the caretaker of his ill mother, Norma, and runs an old motel that receives very little business. Soon, we see that Bates’ character is not as innocent as he seems. The audience is completely thrown for a loop when Crane is brutally murdered by Bates before half of the movie has passed. The rest of the film follows the investigation surrounding the mysterious disappearance of Crane. This leads to another murder, giving more insight into the horror of Norman Bates’ character, as well as his mother’s. The huge shock comes when it is revealed that Bates is in fact schizophrenic. He possesses the personality of his mother, who has been dead for many years, in addition to his own identity. This murderous psychopath is the ultimate villain for a psychological thriller.
There are many different components of Psycho that place it under this genre category. As the viewer, we are constantly racking our brains for new possibilities as to what in the world is taking place in the film. At one point in the movie, we discover that Mrs. Bates had been dead for a long time. Yet, we thought that we had seen her and heard her voice. The truth was, we saw the silhouette of her corpse in a window, and the voice we heard was actually Norman pretending to be his mother. During one instance, we thought for sure that we witnessed Mrs. Bates commit a murder. This turned out to be Norman in a wig. Alfred Hitchcock played mind games with the viewer throughout this film, ensuring its status as a true psychological thriller. For the most part, this story was created as a means of entertainment. However, it is important to note the parallels between the disturbing aspects of Hitchcock’s films and his troubled childhood. I believe that Hitchcock channeled the emotions from his difficult past into his filmmaking, leading to the disconcerting storylines.
While the characters play a bigger role in the film than the story, it is not the characters that we were expecting. The audience anticipates that Marion Crane will be the focus. Yet, she is killedoff fairly early. Norman Bates is without a doubt the most impactful figure in the movie. The title of Psycho is obviously referring to this deranged lunatic, with multiple personalities and a violent nature. Bates completely drives the story forward. Of course, Marion Crane did indeed still $40,000 and make off with it. But, Alfred Hitchcock’s decision to make a murderous schizophrenic the story’s main attraction proved much more entertaining.
In order to developthe character of Norman Bates and convey his appalling identity to the audience, Alfred Hitchcock deftly incorporates theatrical elements such as foreshadowing to hint when a pivotal scene may be approaching. For example, we get the feeling that Bates is not completely normal in a conversation with Marion Crane. He gets very upset talking about his mother, and snaps at Crane when she tries to sympathize with him. Then, as she goes to her motel room, it is revealed that Bates has created a peep hole, allowing him to peer into her chambers. Shortly after that, Bates stabs her to death while she is showering. At this point, the music played a significant role in the film as well. There is a very high pitched, shrill, shrieking of violin strings that has become an iconic component of this film. This nails-on-a-chalkboard sound makes you cringe.This was certainly the objective of Hitchcock. He wanted the audience to feel the terror that Bates’ victims felt, and that is exactly what happened.
Within this movie, there are various examples of conflicts that are critical to the story. Without conflict, it is impossible for a film to be entertaining. Psycho definitely does not have this problem. Perhaps the most obvious conflict is Man vs. Man. Norman Bates is an insane murderer, who ruthlessly stabs his victims with a butcher’s knife. There is also a case of Man vs. The Unknown, as the investigation of Marion Crane’s disappearance leads to many questions surrounding the mysterious circumstances. While these two variations of conflict can be plainly seen, there are other struggles as well that make you think a little deeper. The whole idea of a schizophrenic murderer can encompass both conflicts of Man vs. Himself and Man vs. Society. Norman Bates literally had a split mind. When one personality took over, the other ceased to exist for that period in time. Other members of society simply could not fathom what Norman Bates was going through. He was rightfully viewed as a maniac, but the man had a serious mental illness. The movie fades with him sitting in a police interrogation room plotting how he will convince people of his innocence.
Throughout my evaluation, I have touched on many of the strong points of this film, including the sinister character of Norman Bates and all of the things that increased his magnificence as a villain. Despite its overall success, Psycho was not flawless. Part of this includes pacing. Some scenes felt too lengthy and flat out unnecessary. A few sequences had absolutely no effect on the story. This was something that Alfred Hitchcock did in many of his works. He purposely attempted to mislead the audience on some occasions. Hitchcock was certainly a revolutionary filmmaker. He put his signature on the movies that he was involved in, one way or another. Taking all of this into consideration, the pacing did not bother me enough to take away my enjoyment of the film. That was simply a part of what made Hitchcock’s films unique. Overall, this mysterious psychological thriller, with all of its drama, suspense, and surprises, was effective enough to earn a solid “B” grade from me.