31 Scary Movies: ‘Psycho’

“Psycho” (1960) – Film students have marveled at director Alfred Hitchcock’s macabre movie of misdirection for decades, and his picture forced millions of moviegoers to think twice before taking a motel-shower.

Rightfully so, as “Psycho” instantly became meshed within pop culture in 1960 and to this day.

To this day, every movie aficionado knows that the lonely Bates Motel is the film’s setting, and Norman Bates’ (Anthony Perkins) place may be 15 minutes away from fictional Fairvale, CA, but it actually begins in the bustle of Phoenix, Arizona.

Young Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) has a daytime rendezvous in a nearby downtown hotel with her California boyfriend Sam Loomis (John Gavin).  They wish that they could be together all the time, but Sam’s money problems prevent that from immediately coming true.  That’s all the motivation that Marion needs to steal $40,000, drive to California to meet Sam and hopefully start a new life.

Most unfortunately – with dark skies and rainy weather jumping on her windshield – she pulls off the road to take lodging at the Bates Motel.  Norman, a tall and lanky man, seems friendly enough, but he mentions some odd quirks about his mother.  She lives with him at the nearby house and says, “She goes a little mad sometimes.”

Right away, Perkins brings an unsettled demeanor to Norman with an occasional nervous tick or laugh, and eye movements that don’t bring anyone, including Marion, a sense of ease.

Hitchcock gets involved with a bit of foreshadowing by hiding half of Norman’s face in the shadows – in one early moment in the story – which  implies that more is going on with him than meets the eye.  You won’t see a much blood and gore in “Psycho”, but the sounds of the infamous shrieking violin and a single knife repeatedly cutting into human flesh are all the terror that one can handle anyway.

Add a very unorthodox narrative, and the events at the Bates Motel have shocked and influenced two generations of filmmakers, film students and moviegoers!

Image credits: Paramount Pictures; Trailer credits: Michaela (YouTube)

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