Psycho (1960)

figure. 1 Movie Poster

Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 film, Psycho encompasses the very definition of plot twists as we follow the blonde damsel that as usual, Hitchcock manages to fondly find a place for in his films as she is painted both as a villain and victim. Psycho constantly toys with the concept of predictable and unpredictable story-lines.

The strong sense of spacing coupled with immaculately jarred timing proves a spotlight for a film that manages to jump from being a thriller one moment; to a psychological trick the next. Similar to Rope (1948), Hitchcock's ability not to stick to a cookie-cutter mold of genre and theme proves positive in this regard. From when Marion Crane (played by Janet Leigh) speeds off guiltily in her car surrounded by paranoid music it seems almost certain that Psycho would be all about being chased and making an elaborate getaway; but Hitchcock's ability to play with the genre of the film similar to how he played with Rope (1948) regardless of it not being his most successful, pays off in Psycho as Hitchcock's ability to create a truly non-predictive story shines through the otherwise average-looking sets and actors. Described by David Putman as "a rule-breaking, wildly explicit film, dealing in brutal murder, risqué (for 1960) sexual situations, and themes involving Norman's Oedipal complex and transvestitism (never mind it was also the first time a flushing toilet was seen on film). " (Putman, 1998)

Whilst he was fond of using blonde women as a lead role, and Psycho is no exception to this, the way he casts them is in a way that makes it work. They might all have blonde hair; but have completely different personalities and natures that complement the story. The story tends to follow the woman and how she is feeling. If she's tense, the film begins to feel tense, if she's happy then it is also replicated in the film. As Marion Crane hastily tries to buy a new car, the whole tone of the film is resonating around her, even in scenes where she isn't necessarily in them. There is a constant reminder that she is main focus.

Half-way through Psycho; unexpectedly Marion is killed off. The role of the main character is taken over by her killer, Norman Bates and from this point onward the story plot becomes much more than simply running away from the police with a lot of money into a mysterious enriching thriller, verging on horror. Roger Egbert (1998) explains that "Hitchcock devotes his full attention and skill to treating them as if they will be developed for the entire picture." and because of this the main-character switch is delivered so greatly. Both characters become fully developed, even Marion in such a small frame of time that you only get too comfortable awaiting to see their finished development towards a resolved ending, but instead we have Psycho. When Marion is killed you don't see much; but you would wish you could see more from morbid curiosity and confusion as to what is happening. a character switch so out of the ordinary and especially by murder. The scene is easily one of those most well remembered and re-done scenes in horror history (as women everywhere are just trying to shower without someone trying to kill em'..)  Egbert makes a great point in saying "situation and artistry are more important than graphic details." (1998) and in this case, they do. Masses of gore, hectic screaming and violent blood splatters are nowhere to be seen, and instead a very realistic approach to a situation you hope shouldn't be real replaces them.

figure 2, Marion Crane (Left) & Norman Bates (Right)

Perhaps the greatest feat of this film is in the extremely subtle wordplay, never quite telling you what will happen. This, combined with the deadbeat low-key acting style - albeit very natural and normal - settle you into a state of looking but never able to find it. Psycho might arguably be too long for some; but in order to create necessarily pacing it has to be done. There are no visual clues per-say and when they are it's meant to be a trick of the mind; when Norman Bates' Mother is seen from the window of the house for example. The whole buildup of Psycho is so unremarkable downplayed that only at the end you get the punch of realization from all the clues, suspense and threads of intent come together. But what makes Hitchcock's handling of this all the better is his unexpected use of twisted scenes that are otherwise not made obvious beforehand. There is no added emphasis to the truly off putting moments in Psycho, especially at the end and this is what makes it so effective as it does not set out to overwhelm you with cheap jumpscares or eerie music.


Ebertt, Roger. Psycho Movie Review & Film Summary (1988) Psycho  [online] At: (Accessed on 09,03,15)

Putman, Dustin (1988)  "Dustin Putman's Review: Psycho  [online] At: (Accessed on 09,03,15)

Illustration List:

Figure 1. PSYCHO MOVIE POSTER (1960) [Poster] At: (Accessed on 15/02/15)

Figure 2, Marion Crane (Left) & Norman Bates (Right) (1960) [screenshot] At: (Accessed on 09/03/15)


  1. Lovely, in-depth review Ella :)
    Just be aware that you don't need to italicise the character names though, just the film titles and quotes.

  2. Ooooooo. Thank you for the heads up !