Psycho (1960)

To be honest, I have never been much of a Psycho fan. It’s a solid film, but I’ve never been particularly passionate about it. My preferred choice of poison with Hitchcock has always geared towards works like Rear Window or To Catch a Thief. That’s been the major reason I’ve held out so long before I finally got around re-watching Psycho for the first time in fifteen years or so, I just didn’t have the interest. Upon seeing it again, it holds up better than I was anticipating. It’s incredibly tight in pacing and has you so engaged to the plot that the time flies by without you even noticing it. Even though it doesn’t really change my stance on the movie, I did have plenty of fun with it. It even rekindled my interest in seeing the notorious 1998 Gus Van Sant remake which I vividly remember coming out in theaters because it was around that same period of time that I saw all the original four Psycho movies for the very first time on TV. Viewing the original movie with more critical eyes as an adult, it held plenty of nice surprises. For example, I, for obvious reasons, had never picked up as a kid on  just how risqué the movie was for its time. There’s the sordid opening of the movie with Marion in bed with her lover, Marion’s shown prancing around in her mere bra on screen, you didn’t really see such things on the big screen before Psycho, even the violence is pretty shocking and graphic with its use of blood given the era.

The mastery in film making that went into making the movie really is breathtaking. The way Hitchcock was able to conceal the fact Norman’s mother is dead for extended period of the running time and led you to believe she was the culprit by clever uses of camera angles whenever she was supposedly on screen, as well as having a body double replace Anthony Perkins whenever “she” goes and murders someone (so that his body language wouldn’t accidentally reveal the twist), were ingenious decisions. I even found myself repeatedly amazed by how well Hitchcock was able to build up tension and suspenseful mood during the sequence where Marion’s merely driving her car during the rainy night, when she’s running away with the embezzled money. The dark, stormy night and claustrophobic atmosphere inside the car was incredibly intense and the haunting score only elevated it to be even more oppressing experience. The tension doesn’t even let out when the the state patrol officer starts following Marion around the town, after finding her behavior highly suspicious. Despite knowing very well that it was a red herring because Marion was going to get away so she could be brutally stabbed to death twenty minutes later, it was genuinely thrilling. hat, if anything, is a testament to the level of skill Hitchcock has as a director.

That said, there was a brief moment after Marion has been killed where the movie kinda started to lose my interest, mainly thanks to the movie slowing down and becoming more of a mystery movie, building up the twist that Norman is the killer and not his mother. This of course does no longer have the same allure to it if you already know the inevitable conclusion, but this is a very minor thing to complain about.The movie more than makes up for the momentary slump once we return to the Bates Motel for the big climax, and what seals the deal is the last few minutes of the film, where after being explained Norman’s mental state and what led to his psychosis, the camera is led into the room where Norman is silently sitting by himself, and we get a small glimpse of his thoughts, revealing that the “Mother” persona has completely taken over by having “her” disembodied voice claim that the murders were all done by Norman and insisting that she wouldn’t hurt a fly, while at the same time we see Norman put on a very subtle, wicked grin on his face. And rather than ending it here, which would by itself already be a brilliant way to fade to black and end the film, Hitchcock instead does something interesting: for few mere seconds we are cut back to the swamp, and see Marion’s car being pulled up from the bosom of the swampy water, as if symbolizing how Norman’s true face is now finally brought to surface, and revealed to all the world to see. These two final scenes perfectly encapsulates the malicious and twisted relationship with Norman and his mother, and serves as a sinister and beautifully metaphoric conclusion to the story.

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