Psycho (Film Analysis #2)

Psycho (1960, Paramount)-Alfred Hitchcock

This low-budget black-and-white shocker is one of the great achievements in the horror genre, although it eschews the monsters and supernatural trappings usually associated with the genre at that time, in favor of a psychologically based approach to terror. Alfred Hitchcock took the familiar horror movie cliches and reused them in a new, contemporary setting. Although a realistic tale, the approach to filming is full-blown Gothic/Dark. The lonely road and the rain the drives a victim to seek shelter where there is only danger;  this is the stuff of classic-horror movies, as is the spooky house, a fine 20th Century stand-in for Dracula’s castle. And of course, the lurking menace hiding in the attic or the basement—what more could you ask of a horror movie?

In my opinion the final scene is the most important and information-filled part of the whole movie.  It starts off with the cops waiting in an interrogation office and there discussing the issue with Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins).  Finally, Marion’s sister and lover walk in the room waiting to see what the psychiatrist has to say about the cause of Norman’s strange murders.  The psychiatrist begins to explain how Norman’s childhood was strictly based on him and his mother.  Norman’s mother raised him alone and was single for the most part of her life.  She then met a man who Norman thought she considered more important than him.  Norman with his mental defects then poisoned his mother and her partner and that affected norman and made him even more crazy than what he already was.  He ended up stealing her corpse and keeping it in his mansion next to the hotel he owned.  Norman’s psychological problem was that he couldnt stand the fact that his mother was dead and tried to live a double sided life… Him and his mother.  Every day norman would talk to him self and dress up as his mother.  He had spent so much time with his mother he knew exactly what she would answer to what he said, and he would live with two personalities.  When the psychiatrist finishes explaining the situation to Marion’s sister and her lover theres a close up on the confused faces change.  They seem to now understand what was going on.  Then the cop comes over and since Norman’s “mother” is the one being accused, norman acts as if it were his mother in the interregation office.  They hand him a blanket and he answers with a clear female voice “Thank You”.  They then put the famous scene from psycho that a lot of people are familiar with. He starts speaking to himself in the lonely room while the cops look at him stating how she, “his mother”, was going to hand in her son because she didn’t kill anybody.  Then a fly hovers over her hands and she claims that she is so innocent she wont even swat it.

The lighting in this scene really catches the viewer off gaurd despite the fact that it looks great.  When the psychiatrist is explaining Norman’s mental problems the lighting seems a bit lighter then the hotel scenes yet still a bit darker than the begining.  Yet, once the scene moves on to where norman’s “mother” is waiting in the room alone with the fly, the lighting really does a fine job at making the scene horrifying and creepy.  Its light, but a very dull light.  The black and white color of the movie also gives it a perfect touch to this scene.  Although white is a “light” color it gives you a worse feeling then Black would in this scene.  The overall lighting was very dull across the entire movie. It started off regular, then moved to dark, then a slight increase, and then finished with the horrifying white that strikes the viewed with straight up Horror. The cherry on top used for the scene was not the lighting though, i would say it was the close up of Norman’s smile which then turned into his mothers corpse-head.  The editing in this was great for the time regard the fact that it was a low-budget film.

The impact of this movie changed the genre forever, relocating the source of horror from the far off hills of Transylvania and internalizing it in the most cherished of relationships, the one between mother and son.  Previous films had used contemporary settings and emphasized psychological explanations
and stories like DR. JEKYLL AND MR HYDE had featured characters with split personalities, but these were diversions that
still retained elements like mad science to explain the etiology
of horror. Yes, the respectable Dr. Jekyll turned into the monstrous Mr. Hyde – but only because he indulged in misguided experiments.  In short, the real horror behind Psycho was brought at the fact that it can really happen and DOES exist.  Other horror movies at the time were somewhat fictive.

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