Over five decades have passed since Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho first opened in cinemas. Five decades in which censorship standards have changed dramatically, and the world of cinematic suspense has run off the ledge of subtlety and dived deep into a pool of gore.
Psycho is a return to the bones of suspense, and is a must-see, the original version doing the story the most justice, in my opinion. Hitchcock does an incredible job with the movie, bringing to life the creepy tale of Marion Crane and her unfortunate stay at the Bates Motel.
While watching it, I was reminded of the basics of suspense, the simple things that change an ordinary situation into one that turns your body into a ticking time bomb of expectation.
Hitchcock does a masterful job in Psycho of creating suspense with simple actions. The flutter of a curtain to remind you that the woman’s motel room window is open. The hesitation of Norman Bates’s hand when choosing a key, the final decision on Room One sending the viewer’s mind in a hundred directions of what might be. The rear-view mirror shot of the trailing police car, an image that will make the most innocent of drivers sweat with trepidation.
I was reminded too, while watching the movie, of the importance of details in a story, and how a single pause from a camera, or a crescendo of music, can make the difference between a scary story and one that clutches at your inner fears and drags you along a path of hell as it takes a sadistic journey to the words ‘THE END’.
In 1960, when Hitchcock released Psycho, it broke traditional standards of acceptability, pushing the envelope with its level of sexuality and violence. Nowadays, an overly exposed viewer would consider the violence tame, the blood and gore almost non-existent. Yet we still grip our seat, and watch with fascinated interest Marion Crane’s final moments in the shower.
It is a masterpiece of the power of unseeing. How a hundred moments can be telegraphed by fingers dragging down a shower curtain. How our minds will fill in the blanks in worse ways than an actual image. This groundbreaking film shows us that the unknown can often be the scariest thing of all.
A. R. Torre is a pseudonym for Alessandra Torre, a USA Today bestselling erotica author. She lives in Florida with her husband, stepson and two misbehaving dogs. Her debut suspense novel, The Girl in 6E, is published by Orion. Find out more at www.alessandratorre.com