When people are asked to name some of the most famous horror movies ever made, one name that will almost always come up is Psycho. A significant horror movie that has terrified & delighted audiences since its release in 1960. Such a well known & early example of the slasher genre. There are very few people who aren’t aware of some element of the movie. Be it the screeching music that plays during a violent stabbing or the delectable final twist.
Psycho is a tremendous movie & arguably one of Alfred Hitchcock’s best works.
Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) is a real estate secretary with not much money & a boyfriend, Sam (John Gavin) with a few too many debts. While at work a client drops off a large cash payment for a property & her boss asks her to take it to the bank & deposit it. She agrees but on her way decides to take the money & leave town.
Her trip is fraught though as she runs into her boss on her way out of town & falls asleep only to be woken by a state trooper. Her behaviour makes him suspicious & he follows her forcing Marion to stop at a car dealership & trade in her car for one with a different number plate.
She carries on her trip after a lot of questioning by the dealership owner. However as night falls she decides to stop at a motel. The Bates motel.
Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) is an affable young man stuck dealing with his mentally ill mother who remains in her room upstairs. Norman shares his frustrations about how controlling his mother is to Marion over dinner forcing her to rethink her theft. She decides to return back the money the next day but is attacked & murdered in the shower by a knife-welding assailant.
This is considered one of the most iconic scenes ever & to see the heroine killed off at the halfway point is genuinely shocking.
The film then switches focus to the private investigator Milton (Martin Balsam) who is working with Marion’s sister Lila (Vera Miles) & Sam to find out where Marion disappeared too. Their trail ends up leading them to the Bates Motel but Norman claims to have never even seen Marion. Not only that, he insists they can not talk to his mother under any circumstances.
To give away the ‘twist’ of Psycho would be an extreme dis-service. Especially considering just how important it is to the overall plot. An absolute barn-burner of a reveal results in a finale that thrills & chills.
However, that’s not the only good thing about Psycho. In fact there is very little that isn’t a joy to watch. The master of tension, Hitchcock dials it up to heights not experienced before & scene after scene will stick with you long after the movie has ended. The use of close-up shots, the use of shadows, the shock slasher moments that come out of nowhere…it’s near perfection.
Everyone involved gives excellent performances but in particular, Anthony Perkins who is incredible. His boyish charm endears him to you even if there is clear darkness behind is kind eyes & welcoming words. An iconic character.
Psycho really is as good as the majority of people say it is. Exciting, tense & satisfying, it really does stand the test of time.