Halloween is almost around the corner and is inevitable to want to turn on the TV and binge some of our favourite horror movies and TV shows. Channels and streaming platforms have made this tradition much easier, especially because every year they offer more and more options to watch.
It is hard to pick a favourite horror movie. Why should we pick something that makes us (most of the time) feel frightened and anxious? However, we do it every year, almost every month or week, and it’s so much fun that you always find something new or interesting to appreciate about it. And that’s what happens to me with Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.
It’s a classic and It’ll always be. Some people might argue that it’s not a horror movie but more a thriller or suspense. But they are wrong. Psycho is the ultimate, and probably the best horror movie ever created. It doesn’t need to have jump scares, demonic entities, ghosts or possessed children. Without any of that, Alfred Hitchcock created a masterpiece.
The story takes place in Phoenix and follows Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), the secretary of a real state agency. Marion wants to marry her boyfriend Sam Loomis, but they can’t because he has too many debts. When a client makes a deposit of $40,000, Marion’s boss asks her to deposit it in the bank, but instead, she steals the money and runs away to California, where she intends to give the money to Sam so he can pay all his debts.
However, as she is running away, she is seen by her boss and is forced to escape from the police. After she trades her car, she decides to make a one-night stop at the small and friendly Bates Motel. She is there greeted by the charming and shy concierge, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). But her quiet night suddenly turns into a nightmare when Normans reveals his true psychopathic intentions.
Psycho was released in 1960 and it became an instant success. As I said before, Alfred Hitchcock didn’t need the typical horror cliches to turn Psycho into a horror film. With just black and white photography, complex characters and an unforgettable scene with a killer soundtrack, Hitchcock created one of the best horror movies of all time, you can call it a slasher even if you want.
But how is this possible? Especially when you have way scarier movies like The Exorcist, The Shining, Hereditary, The Conjuring and I could keep going for pages. Psycho is not scary in that sense and yet is a horror film.
To understand this, we need to travel back in time and set ourselves in the moment it was released. If you think of horror movies from the 50s, 40s and even 30s, there are many memorable titles such as Universal Picture’s classics Dracula, Frankenstein and Creature from the Black Lagoon. Yes, these movies were also scary for the audience, but the technology wasn’t that advanced for people to really believe it.
Do you think Psycho would have been the same if Hithchock actually showed how Norman Bates killed Marion Crane? How would a fake body and fake blood would have looked back then? It wouldn’t have been the same, and this is exactly why this film became so important and had so much success.
Instead of doing what everyone was doing, Hitchcock thought outside the box. Instead, he used dynamic editing, combining it with scary music, close shots and a very clever use of lightning and shadows, it was horror in first person, and that’s also the reason why this movie was so cheap. Rather than focusing on the material things, the director relied on the tension and the mystery that surrounded the story and used those elements in a way that was very uncommon. The fact is that the actual horror doesn’t even begin until the middle of the film when Marion arrives at Bates Motel.
Of course, he does fall for a few cliches, but you need at least one if you’re making a horror movie. What would a horror movie villain would be without some psychotic tendencies? Norman Bates is considered one of the best horror villains of all time. He does what any killer in a crime movie would do, but his motives and his sickness really terrify everyone. The nature of his relationship with his mother, his twisted mind and his unsettling hobbies do nothing more than add another layer of horror to the spectator, and Alfred Hitchcock was very much aware. In fact, most of his films in the suspense genre, include subtopics related to sexuality and psychological traumas.
There is no question that Psycho is a masterpiece, and it’s no coincidence that many people consider it as Alfred Hitchcock’s best movie. It’s been more than 60 years, and doesn’t matter how many generations watch it, they are still amazed by it. It’s quite a haunting film, and in my opinion, the best horror movie to enjoy during Halloween (or any time of year).
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