For 3 stars this week, I watched a movie for homework!

“Write a review of a movie.”

In sticking with the theme of horror, I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.  It had an interesting opening, and I didn’t really think that it fit the movie, but I understand that they had to set the scene, in order for this story to be told.

As soon as the plot takes off, we hear that oh so familiar theme that is played in horror movies.  This starts to build tension, because as the main character, Marion, is running away, the music leads the audience to wonder whether or not she will get caught before she completely escapes with the stolen money.  All along her escape route, there are moments, where the audience thinks that she may get caught, but she successfully eludes the police that follow her for some time.

Instead of showing flashbacks, or scenes where supporting characters are talking about Marion, the film instead just has voice-overs, almost as if these conversations are being played out in Marion’s mind, and not in real life.  Is Marion the one who is psycho?

As Marion stumbles upon the Bates Motel, and its caretaker, Norman, Marion starts to breathe a sigh of relief. Norman doesn’t seem so bad, he’s just a man who has a controlling mother who won’t let him grow up and move out. Although he might be a bit chatty, nothing seems too strange about him… The audience starts to feel for the man. His mother yells at him and does not approve of a woman spending the night in their motel, let alone, him making dinner for her.. When Marion is just trying to be a polite customer, she accidentally says the wrong thing. Something that infuriated Mother, even though she was not present at the conversation to hear it.

Then comes the shower scene.. Why does every horror film have a stupid shower scene?! You would think by now, with all of these films produced and released to the public, that horror characters would learn.. DON’T GET IN THE SHOWER! The film did a great job of not showing anything directly. Using camera angles, creepy music, and good actors, the filmmakers were successful in showing a murder scene.

Fun fact!: The ‘blood’ in the shower is actually Hershey’s cocoa powder. Since the movie was in black and white, the filmmakers only needed to create the illusion of blood, and not actually recreate it. When the cocoa powder was dissolved in water, it gave off the same shade of grey, that blood would have, during the ages when black and white films were popular.

When it was revealed that the mother was the killer, I was surprised, because my thoughts were always that Norman had snapped and killed Marion. In my head, I had always thought that the shower scene was the end of the movie, but was I sure wrong.. That was only the climax!

What ensued was a typical missing persons plot, where a private detective gets involved and tries to help find the missing person. However, another twist ensues and takes a path that the audience does not expect.

The biggest shocker of all came when Lila discovered the mother trapped in the basement, and the actual killer was Norman all along. It was a good thing that the strapping young man was there to rescue the damsel in distress! The filmmakers did an excellent job of explaining events that had happened earlier in the film, and explaining the motive behind Norman’s multiple murders. However, the movie did end with a cliffhanger, when the mother was the dominant conscience in Norman’s head, and she already had a plan to evade the authorities when they locked her up.

If we use Vonnegut’s theory of story shape, Marion’s story would look something like this:

Movie Review Story Shape 1

Her story starts out like any other regular person – not in any peril, nor living the rich life.  It starts to increase when she steals the money and plans to run away with it. However, her story does take a turn for the worse, when she sees her boss crossing the street, and the policeman following her. At this point, she is nervous because she believes that she might get caught.  But it turns upward again when she finds the Bates Motel and she thinks she can lie low there for the night, before continuing her drive in the early morning.  However, after talking with Norman, and then deciding to go to bed, her story almost immediately turns south, forever. (It’s always the shower scene, man!) At this point, since she dies halfway through the film, her story line is like a flat-lining hospital patient: dead.

Overall, I believe that this film displayed many features of other classic horror movies, and actually set the bar for future movies to come! Alfred Hitchcock was very well versed in the horror genre, and created many short stories that were a large part of the genre for decades.   I would recommend that this be a movie that all horror enthusiasts should watch.