Psycho is one of the most famous, ground breaking and most influential film ever made. It was so ground breaking it created a whole new genre of its own which was the slasher horror.
Hitchcock aim was to achieve certain effects. Hitchcock wanted to make a film that would change the ways films were made and to shock the comtempary audience. The film challenged many Hollywood conventions.
Until Psycho it was usual to walk into a film, watch it to the end, and then sit and watch it again until you have seen all of it. Films were played on a perpetual loop with the news and B films.Hitchcock wrote to every cinema showing the film. He gave them specific instructions and a handbook about how to show the film “The manager of this theatre playing Psycho has been instructed, at the risk of his life not to admit any person after the picture starts.
Hitchcock wanted to engineer people’s experience of Psycho. He also wrote “Close curtains after end credits and keep lights of a greenish hue and shine spotlights of the same colour on patrons as they left. Under no circumstances should credits be interrupted by news or anything else. “Therefore the cinema going experience of Psycho was very different Audiences were also confronted with a film, which challenged many social taboos such as voyeurism, murder, transvestite, schizophrenic and the first ever film to show a flushing toilet. He is an auteur due to the unity, links and themes in his work for example the influence of the dead over the living, punishment of sexual transgression and the influence of the mother figure. Also the recurring visual motifs and symbols, which are, mirrors, birds and eyes. Before Psycho films were just concerned with plot, stars and dialogue.Psycho was much more emotional with shocks, surprises and suspense all based on image, editing and sound.
Hitchcock saw the impact on an audience as very important. By using visual effects and well engineered publicity campaigns he saw the birth of the modern film, because it was so different and because the critics didn’t get a preview Psycho was received badly by the critics. The film was also received badly by the public, who fainted, walked out, wrote letters and the Churches tried in vain to ban it. The scene that best epitomises Hitchcock’s revolutionary style is the infamous shower scene.It begins with Norman Bates removing a painting in order to voyeuristically spy on Marion. This painting is “Susanna and the Elders”. The story of Susanna and the Elders is that the two elders spied on Susanna as she bathed. The painting shows them holding her semi-naked under the water, this is appropriate as Norman kills Marion in the shower after he watched her get undressed.
The idea was that Susanna was punished for her sexual sins. Psycho begins with an illicit affair in a hotel room therefore like most horror films Marion is punished for having sex.Modern horror films such as the “Scream” trilogy have continued this tradition.
Filming the shower scene took 7 days and 70 camera set-ups for just 45 second of film. Audiences claimed that they saw the knife enter the body but it doesn’t. Hitchcock uses montage to create the illusion of the knife entering the body. Extreme close-ups of Marion’s face and mouth shows her terror, while the shots showing the knife movements are alternated with shots of her body, which gives the impression that the blade is cutting her body.
The rhythmic editing of the film symbolises the cuts the knife is making. Each new shot or angle represents a stab. This is done at a frantic pace. This slows as she dies and sinks to the floor. The narrative shifts after the murder. As the audience has exclusively followed Marion up until now, the camera must detach itself from her, she sinks gradually down pulling off the shower curtain and falls forward.
The camera follows the flow of the blood away down the plughole. The camera shot then dissolves from a close up of the plughole to a close up of her eye.