I was lucky enough when I first saw Psycho that I didn’t know the ending (I was maybe 9 or so). I didn’t even know much about it at all. I think it’s next to impossible for an adult to see this for the first time now and not know all about it, but it’s still really cool to see it that way.
Psycho might be the best example of shifting the plot completely after the movie’s already started. Usually I hate this because it’s usually done so badly, and because of a lack of direction rather than a conscious choice. But this is Hitchock, so he knew what he was doing. It goes from a thriller about a woman stealing $40,000 so she can pay off her boyfriend’s debts and be with him to a horror movie about a psychotic killer. And it does so pretty beautifully and seamlessly.
Obviously, Anthony Perkins is the real star here. He was 28 when this was made and he definitely looks like someone who is easily in his early to mid 20’s. He’s lanky and boyishly good-looking, making him all the more trustworthy. But one of the things so great about his performance is how when he’s alone, he acts with much more confidence than when he’s around other people, showing just how closed off he is. It’s really subtle, and Janet Leigh plays her role subtly, too. There’s a lot of shots of just her face driving along with voiceovers of her thoughts. When you think about it, it really does take a lot of skill to have the camera on your face that much without overacting or being boring.
The one thing that I don’t like about Psycho is the recap at the end done by the psychiatrist who evaluates Norman Bates. He comes out and tells the rest of the cast Bates’ whole backstory and why he dresses up as his mother and kills people. Maybe things were different in 1960, but I truly think the audience would have completely understood everything that happened without this added part. The very end scene is a cop bringing Bates a blanket, and then an internal monologue done by Bates. I really think it would have been more effective to cut out the psychiatrist’s speech and go straight to Bates. But, then again . . . I’m no Hitchcock.
It’s pretty sad that it took me this long to see this movie. I’m not sure why I never got around to it but I’m glad I finally did. I think the closest I ever got to this movie was going to Universal Studios. I think there is some kind of Psycho ride or walkthrough or something? Anyway, this movie was so scary! It’s easily up there in my favorite horror/thriller movies now. Everything about it works so well and is so horrifying. It also makes so much sense for the time, in my mind. It’s not like I lived back then but it makes so much more sense that this would happen at some tucked-away motel. The only thing about this movie that’s off is how they explain everything in the end. That was really unnecessary and pretty insulting to the audience. But maybe there is some story behind why that’s there.