Psycho, the genesis of a film culture Alfred Hitchcock, the legend whose specialty in thrillers and mystery films has definitely produced tons of timeless classics like North by Northwest, The Rear Window, Vertigo and Strangers on a Train (Short). However, Psychois hands down the most recognizable film that people associate with Hitchcock today and a film whose impact on our culture that made it a phenomenon. But why is it a masterpiece? The timeless classic Psycho would go down as the Hitchcock’s greatest masterpiece because of its innovative cinematography and influence on our culture that spawned a new film genre.
Psycho is an adaptation of a book, with identical titles, influenced by real-life murderer Ed Gein, whose methods of killing are similar to the film (Top). It included Anthony Perkins as the queer, disturbed Norman Bates and Janet Leigh as Marion Crane where they did a golden performance in this classic film. The story is about Marion Crane, who resides in the rural Bates Motel, owned by Norman Bates, and stays there for the night. Her life ends however when she is brutally murdered while taking a shower. A detective and her sister, try to solve her disappearance as they find a horrific discovery where it sets up to a thrilling pinnacle when the killer is unveiled (Psycho). Psycho got different opinions from the reviewers, but it was a box office hit and many critics later changed their opinions. It was up for four Oscars, including Best Director and Best Actress (Travers)
One thing that Psychohad that captivated the audience and kept them on their feet was the cinematography. Hitchcock was the master at creating suspense, so he had to find a way to create a golden climax in the film. And he did it with the “Shower Scene”. It was no doubt the most iconic part in movie history. The protagonist of the picture, Marion Crane, is seen disrobing and steps into the shower. Marion Crane is masked by the shower curtains as a dark figure appears and the curtains are torn apart, she screams as the figure pulls out a knife. In the background there are screeching violins as the heroine dies under the figure’s hand (Sullivan). The picture was innovative at the time it was the only film the where protagonist of the plot is killed only betwixt and between the movie. Hitchcock had already established Marion as the center of attention until then. So with the disbelief of watching the killing on the big screen, the viewers are stunned that the heroine of the plot has been killed without reaching a conclusion. There is no complaining that Hitchcock was “a masterful virtuoso at manipulating the audience's emotions. The famous shower scene of this film is testament to this fact.” and it is no reason why it has become “one of the most popular, often-parodied and often-taught scenes in film history.” (Sullivan)
Another influence Psycho has on today’s culture is that it “reinvented” the idea of slasher movies. A slasher movie is, according to the definition “a subgenre of horror films, and at times thriller, typically involving a mysterious psychopathic killer stalking and killing a sequence of victims usually in a graphically violent manner.” (Slasher) As Psycho received numerous positive criticisms and influenced the movie industry, other directors tend to follow its footsteps to receive as much fame as Psycho had. People have dubbed the film as “the grandfather of all slasher films” (Berardinelli), as it was identified as an early example of a slasher films (Botti). And as a result, inspired and cultivated many individuals to produce different horror motion pictures in order to live up to the expectation of Psycho. Films and novels that are influenced by Psycho are endless, however the successful ones like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Tobe hooper, 1974), Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978), the books and later films Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris and American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis are classic examples of “tributaries” of the slasher film genre (Top). It’s amazing that a simple horror flick is enough to create a whole new genre, which changed our view on thrillers and slasher films.
Hitchcock was indeed the master of horror, and his masterpiece Psycho has made an impact in our society today and our outlook in our culture. Even though Hitchcock is not among us anymore, his legacy of film making and editing has changed the way films work in Hollywood. And it’s still changing today. So next time you see Halloween or Silence of the Lambs, just remember that without the production of Psycho, the legacy of horror films wouldn’t be a trend in today’s culture.
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Travers, James. "Psycho (1960)." / Alfred Hitchcock / Film Review. N.p., 2008. Web. 12 Mar. 2013. .