Why is Psycho one of the greatest horrors?

If you are a cinema enthusiast, you would definitely know the sheer complexity yet intense experience of watching Alfred Hitchcock’s classic, Pyscho. One of the greatest horrors, it redefined the genre altogether replacing the slasher movies of the times with the powerful storytelling and disturbing set up of Psycho. Recently, I watched the move again after 5 long years and still managed to experience the same level of elation as I always feel.

Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen the movie yet which is really pathetic if you are a cinema lover.

Did you Know? Compared to his other epics made on a grander scale like North by Northwest, Psycho was made on a meager budget and was based on a novel loosely inspired by a real life serial killer Ed Gains.

Here are some of the best aspects about the movie which make it a Classic even after so many decades.

  • Casting 

The casting is top notch and considering the fact that none of them was a star then except Janet Leigh, Hitchcock played a huge gamble putting the entire film’s performance on their shoulders. Even Anthony Perkins, who played the most memorable character of Norman Bates, wasn’t a huge star then. But all the hard work paid off finally.

  • Background Score

Bernard Herrmann’s disturbing and chilling ensemble of strings has come to define suspense and horror in today’s time and is often used to evoke ominous feelings. On the contrary, the score is often used in parodies too. I still get goosebumps listening to it. What about you?

Did you Know? Hitchcock bought almost every copy of the novel Psycho was based on to keep the climax a top secret.

The Mother 

That climax scene where you are finally exposed to the Mother’s real body with the killer Mother running behind Lila Crane (Vera Miles) was enough to give me a minor heart attack and unending nightmares for days. The horrifying smiling skeleton of Mrs Bates was nothing but creepy, uncomfortable and terrorizing.

Norman Bates himself

The pretty, shy and instantly likable Norman Bates is a treat to your eyes the first time you see him on screen. For a regular movie watcher, there seems to be sparks flying between Norman and Marion until the Shower Scene comes up. Norman Bates was undoubtedly the most defining and memorable character for Anthony Perkins.

Even he himself agreed on the same and went ahead to star in two more sequels of Psycho even if that meant being stereotyped for the rest of his career. And the scene at the end with his creepy yet highly disturbing smile where Mother seems to have completely overpowered Norman is one of the best scenes in cinematic history. No matter how many times you watch it, the disturbance experienced will always be real and intense.

Shower Scene

Inspired by Soviet montage filmmakers, Psycho’s Shower Scene made a generation stop taking Showers alone. It also broke many Censor barriers and  in the years to come became an iconic scene which is inspiring film makers to this day. The iconic screeching violins in Bernard Herrmann’s musical score made the entire Shower sequence ten times more impactful than it was without it.

Did you Know? Hitchcock was against the entry of anyone in the theatre once the movie began and also had a large cut out communicating the same.

McGuffin

A film making tool introduced by Alfred Hitchcock’s screenwriter Angus MacPhail, McGuffin is a plot device or event that sets the entire story in motion but on the whole is quite irrelevant with the main story about an another aspect altogether. In Psycho, the McGuffin device was Marion stealing $40000 which though set the events in Motion was not the central theme of the move. This tool though a great risk to use intensified the suspense of a move multi folds.

The Split Personality Disorder

I, personally, find the Multiple Personality Disorder quite fascinating as it exposes us to the extreme yet devastating power of our own minds. Psycho might definitely be one of the initial movies to focus on the disorder. Norman Bates’ inability to deal with his emotions and get over his Mother’s death leads him to become the Mother in order to fill in the gap. There cannot be a more horrifying scenario to imagine than this.

Norman’s Taxidermy hobby

A lot of people have made their interpretations regarding the symbolism of this highly eccentric and disturbing hobby of Norman Bates. Some consider the birds to be a reflection of Norman’s own personality traits or you can the different personalities. As per some others, the birds are symbolic of Norman’s own curious and voyeuristic nature. Whatever it is, the hobby really exposes audiences to the disturbing side of Norman and his likeness of preserving the dead. That may be the reason why even after Mother’s death, Norman saw her as one of the birds and preserved her body in order to keep her close always.

Well, these are some of the movie aspects which I though make it an eternal classic. If you can think of any other reasons, please do let me know in the comments.

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