Posted on: October 16, 2020 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Disclaimer: This review DOES contain spoilers.

Celebrating its 60th anniversary, “Psycho” (1960) was a revolutionary film for the industry. It is riddled with iconic and memorable moments. It is revered as a not just a classic horror movie, but as an all time classic movie. However, as I have said in a previous review, some movies are seen as classics but don’t always live up to that hype. “Psycho” (1960) is most definitely not a victim of this, and should be shown to those who want to make movies to understand the craftsmanship of filmmaking.

Andrew Pahl

Movie Reviewer

“Psycho” (1960) was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and stars Janet Leigh as Marion Crane and Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates. The film is about Marion Crane who works at a bank and steals $40,000 and runs away. While on the run, she checks into the Bates Motel run by Norman Bates, who is controlled by his mother. The script is compact and tight; in fact, you wouldn’t think of this as a horror movie if you had no prior knowledge about it for the first half of the movie. The thing that makes “Psycho” so great is the tension that is built throughout the movie.

From the moment Marion leaves town with the money, the world becomes uneasy. The way she speaks to people and how she acts around them further brings about how uncertain her situation is. The thing that makes the tension work even more is the score. This is an iconic score, mostly famous for one scene, that just chills the audience. This may seem a little vague, but there will be more in the spoiler section.  

With little locations in the movie, the script really brings out the characters. Finally, a movie that I can watch and praise its character work. The one that I particularly want to examine is Norman Bates. He is portrayed as a man who lives with his mother and runs the family motel. But we feel for his character because he is shown just by dialogue alone that he is under the thumb of his mother, further cementing how close they are by stating “a boy’s best friend is his mother.” He is almost traumatized by her because whenever he has a conversation with someone and the topic shifts towards her, he begins to become defensive. Hitchcock did a very good job with this character, giving sympathy and establishing care for him.

The technical aspect of the film is also fantastic. The editing is precise, making sure that the shot is cut or lingers on the scene for just the right amount of time. The sound editing mixing in the film’s score is great.

Also, the shot compositions are wonderful. There are so many parts throughout the movie that you can just pause on and that frame is a shot that is immortalized. Placement and angles of a shot play a huge role in the movie, establishing underlying characteristics within these characters. In addition to all of this, another aspect that I respect is some of the lighting techniques used. When lighting a movie it should just fall into the background when viewing. When I catch something in a movie about lighting it tells me two things: it is either really good or a total miscalculation. This is another case of the production giving more hints and adding an interesting aesthetic to the film.

There really is nothing more I can say about this film without getting into spoilers. The acting is great, the editing is pristine, character development is at its best, and the directing by Alfred Hitchcock is just on another level. I’m going to give for the first (and most certainly not last) time, “Psycho” (1960) 5 out of 5 stars. This is definitely a movie those who want to make a career in filmmaking, talk about films, or is just generally a fan of good movies should watch.

Now let’s get into the SPOILER SECTION of the review. When Marion leaves Norman’s office after they have dinner the lighting casts shadows across the scene and face of him and it really establishes the conflicting thoughts inside of him. She heads back to her room and what soon comes is one of the most iconic scenes in horror history. The shower scene, where we see a silhouette of a woman, later to find out it’s Norman’s mother, stabbing Marion to death. The sudden shock of the kill mixed with the screams, the score, and the final shots of Marion holding her hand out to the audience then falling over the tub with a still shot of her eye zooming out to see her face is breathtaking.

What makes the moment even more uncomfortable is when Norman finds out his mother killed Marion, he rushes to the room and cleans it up and dumps Marion’s body and other belongings in her car and pushes it in the swamp lake. Later on in the movie, Marion’s boyfriend, Sam Loomis, and sister, Lila Crane, get in contact with a private investigator hired by the man who gave Marion the money and his interrogation with Norman is really fun to watch. You see that Norman is caught in this trap when he is answering questions regarding Marion.

And once again, when the conversation shifts to his mother, he gets very defensive and tells him to leave. The PI returns and tries to go into the house Norman lives in with his mother to talk to her. The sudden kill that happens where his face is being slashed is amazing. On top of that, he is falling back down the stairs, and the technique Hitchcock uses to make it seem like he is endlessly falling backwards is great.

Leading to the finale, when Lila and Sam go to the motel and try to figure out what has happened, we get the shocking twist that Norman’s mother has been dead this entire time and it has been in fact Norman who has been dressing up as her and killing those people. This is another scene that is riddled with iconic imagery and is a stable in the horror genre. What comes later is more amazing scenes; when they bring Norman to the police and the characters find out that Norman killed his mother at a young age and has had a personality disorder that makes him become his mother by talking to her and keeping her body around and even dressing up as her. I would say that it is a little heavy-handed in the exposition dump explaining the twist, however it was a different time period and I can see why Hitchcock went with the idea of explaining it to his audience.

This then leads to the shot of Norman sitting in custody with his mother’s voice talking over about what had happened. As she then states, “why she wouldn’t even harm a fly”, there is a grin that comes across Norman’s face that dissolves into a skeleton face, then a chain pulling up the car that was dumped. Looking back at how Norman was developed, it is an amazing character. On top of what was said previously, he comes across as a normal person and is deliberately portrayed as a victim and shown differently than how other killers in slashers normally would be. A normal looking person is more terrifying to think of as a killer than someone that is disfigured or you can blatantly tell there is something wrong with them.

All in all, this movie should be seen as one of the best horror movies of all time and one of the best films of all time. The amount of effort Hitchcock took even prior to this coming out with a lengthy trailer showing none of the plot and only talking about the locations and what might possibly happen is something that we don’t and probably won’t see ever again. The strict rules he had movie theaters partake in is also something we will mostly likely never see. This film is just another example of how great of a director he is and how he got the moniker of the best director in creating tension in films.