Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho
Ironically Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” was originally a crime thriller and was never meant to be a horror film. Yet it turned out to be the most famous of all horror films. It had changed the horror genre from the classic “European monster” like Dracula which the “monster” is clear to a modern day horror where the “monster” is one of us, an ordinary man.
The film starts off with the narratives supposed protagonist Marion Crane, Hitchcock appears to establish Crane as the main character of “Psycho” from the film’s very first scenes. From here we meet her boyfriend Sam Loomis in a discussion about his in debt and alimony payments, this tends to suggest to the audience that there will be conflict arising. After the establishment of these and the catalyst of the story by way of Marion’s theft of $40,000 we are introduced to minor characters. These include the police officer who pulls over Marion and then proceeds to watch her at the car shop; he acts as a blocking character, who is there to firstly create tension in the mind of Marion but also in the mind of the unknowing audience who still thinks that the story is about her. After Marion’s journey to the Bates motel we meet the real central character to whom the title refers to, Norman Bates.
Norman Bates is introduced as a young, shy and defensive individual, who lives with his mother. Norman does not seem like a threat, just an ordinary guy who runs a quite motel which leads the audience to think otherwise about the apparent “psycho’ that they have already established in their minds. However by the end of the film we find that there were two sides to Norman. One side is the ordinary guy which he shows to the public and the other half which is the “monster” side of him, who conducted all the murders in the film. The evil side of Norman was his mother who he killed. This led to him building the character inside of him as an alter-ego, which then took over Norman.
Hitchcock based Norman’s character on Ed Gein, a real life serial killer in the 1950s. He was an unusual character, born on a farm and raised by a domineering mother. In the space of a few years his entire family died and he was left to raise the farm all by himself. In the next few years he became a grave robber, a necrophiliac, a cannibal, and also took up arts and crafts in body parts. He is seen as one of the most weird and bizarre serial killers of the twentieth century. His crimes also inspired films such as, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Silence of the Lambs”.
One thing that Alfred Hitchcock did, was filmed the film in black and white even though he had the choice to do it in colour. Hitchcock also used shadows to define characters and objects, such as Norman Bates’s face. This way objects appeared more extravagant and creepier to the audience, such as the stuffed animals. Hitchcock also used shadows to cover the killers face so the audience could not see. ‘Psycho’ was also filmed in a way in which the audience got to see more than the characters in screen which gets the audience involved more as they know what is going to happen to the victims before its even happened to them.
In the shower scene, which has become one of the most legendary horror scenes, Hitchcock combines unique technicalities such as the framing of each shot. Using extreme close-ups of the face of the victim we can see her facial expression in great detail. We are able to see the enlightened horror of her emotion. Along with sound effects this creates a chilling experience even though we never see her being wounded, by this Hitchcock wanted to leave the visual image of her being stabbed in the minds of the viewer. Although there is little movement of the camera throughout the director uses an eye level angle to show the brutality as if we were actually there. He continues to switch from the perspective of the victim and the attacker which in turn enables more variation of angles and framing. Throughout the scene we only see very short shots and cuts this emphasises the intensity of the sequence.
Hitchcock also used sound and music to control the audience. He used it to create the tension in scenes and also used sound effects to amplify significant points such as the killings.
The marketing strategy also accounted to the success to the film. First off Hitchcock appears in the film trailer, acting like a tourist guide, showing the audience the scenes of the crimes and then finishes off in the shower. Once the film was in the cinemas, Hitchcock did not want people to come in half way thorough the film, he wanted the audience to sit from start to finish. After each showing Hitchcock would tell the audience not to spoil the film for anyone as he wanted everyone to get the same affect from the film.
Alfred Hitchcock, KBE was a British film director closely associated with the suspense genre. Influenced by expressionism in Germany, he began directing in England, and worked in the United States from 1939. With more than fifty feature films to his credit, in a career spanning six decades, he remains one of the best known and most popular directors of all time. His innovations and vision have influenced a great number of filmmakers, producers, and actors.
Hitchcock’s films draw heavily on both fear and fantasy, and are known for their droll humour. They often portray innocent people caught up in circumstances beyond their control or understanding. This often involves a transference of guilt in which the “innocent” character’s failings are transferred to another character and magnified. Another common theme is the exploration of the compatibility of men and women; Hitchcock’s films often take a cynical view of traditional romantic relationships.
In Conclusion Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ had become the evolution of the horror genre. It has changed it from the classic gothic stories into the modern day, audiences had never seen films like ‘Psycho’ before. What made it even more frightening was that because its was a modern day film, audiences could familiarise with parts of the film, such as isolated motels. ‘psycho’ has now become a legendary film. In this day once someone says horror people automatically think of Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho.’
Get help with your homework
We'll occasionally send you account related and promo emails