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Psycho - a Gorundbreaking Horror Film

Essay by   •  October 21, 2018  •  Book/Movie Report  •  1,570 Words (7 Pages)  •  253 Views

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Psycho, A gorundbreaking horror film

How Psycho changed cinema (Robb, BBC,2010)

More than 55 years ago, Alfred Hitchcock achieved in making a low-budget film, named Psycho, a box-office success. The horror film is not only famous for its shocking ending, but because breaking the conventional ways of filmmaking. The film inspired many filmmakers to explore new filmmaking techniques. In the following essay, I would be discussing some important points linked with erotic Horror, violence, Realism & narrative that makes Psycho a groundbreaking film.

Erotic Horror (Violence & Nudity)

Nowadays, it is very common to see a nudity and violence combined on screen. But, in 1960’s the famous shower scene in Psycho shocked the entire audience. Hitchcock glued the audience to their seats by incorporating voyeurism- the building of sexual excitement through watching (Thomson, 53). This can also be considered as third eye watching, the audience finding sexual excitement creeping, through characters perceptive. An example of this would be Norman peeping through a small hole of the hotel’s wall. We know that in these terms, the naked shower scene is very prominent in the film and most of the erotic pleasure along with the fear is derived from it. But, the director Hitchcock also built up the sexual excitement from the start of the movie and carried the combination of sex, desire of being with the loved one and fear of being spied on, very smoothly throughout the first part of the movie. The opening scene sums up the sexual-aftermath between the couple in the bra and underwear. In three times in forty minutes we have seen Marion her in her brasserie (Thomson, 52). In this way, Hitchcock has exploited the attractiveness of the female actress to feed the psychological urges of the audience to erotize distressed women (Thomson, 52). This same notion of sexual excitement, voyeurism, is used nowadays in all kind of film genres. David Thomson, America’s pre-eminent film historian, argues that voyeuristic notion of Psycho left a mark on everything from the James Bond franchise to such films as Bonnie and Clyde, A Clockwork Orange, Taxi Driver, The Shining, Fatal Attraction, The Silence of the Lambs and Pulp Fiction (Johnson, 2018). Voyeurism is a major component and filmmakers continue to explore this notion differently.

David Thomson (2010 ,53) in his article “how Alfred Hitchcock taught America to love Murder” states that the shower murder in Psycho was perhaps the most violent passage until then in America Film (Thomson, 53). The scene left the audience in shock by killing the most beloved character in a brutal violent scene. Most of the murder scenes in different movies are build up with tension including the victim running and the chase, but this scene was 45-sec long being very quick and unexpected. The murder carried multiple attacks of violence and a lot of blood. In my opinion, Hitchcock wanted to create an illusion of the murder being very violent and leave the audience imagine the outcome of the shots he provided. He did not show the knife penetrating the body or the body bleeding directly. He convinced us of the violence in the scene with much detailed shots such as an upraised knife, Janet Leigh’s Scream, the blood going down the drain in black and white and the iconic music building tension make us all assume Marion died by multiple attacks of the knife. The following shot of Marion falling along with the bath curtain kills the very last hope of the audience of Marion being alive. Many movies incorporate these outburst violence techniques with lots of blood while showing no mercy on the victims, especially the slasher segments. Psycho is a source of violence in cinema by creating an illusion there is a sort of brutal violence in the film, combing sexuality while not completely exposing us directly to nudity. The director gave the imagination of the audience to run wider and imagine more what they were actually seeing.

Narrative & Realism

A narrative of a horror film is built up with the fascination of not knowing what is going to happen next and the ambivalently pleasurable tension which attends that uncertainty (Tudor, 49). Hitchcock did not only used this narrative of revolving mystery that fed the excitement of unknown, but also went step further using a sense realism in his direction.

The approach of realism in his direction can be assumed as transgression. Hitchcock represents the character of Marion and her relationship with Sam in a very realistic way and that the audience can identify themselves with the characters. In the 50’s, the pre-marital sex was seen as a great taboo but it is still commonly practiced by middle-class (Hendershot, 27). Hitchcock created a very relatable scenario featuring the couple, Marion & Sam in post-coital opening scene. Marion was wearing her brasserie in the scene. It was the first time that a woman was portrayed in their under-garments (class notes), even though it was very common necessity. Hitchcock also created this sense of an intimacy between Sam and Marion just through a passionate kiss, which was again very common to see among couples in love. This is viewed as sexual transgression as it is breaking the taboo of Pre-marital sex. Also, Marion would have been a very relatable character among young women that faced her same dilemma of choosing love by sacrificing something, such as their virginity. This was concluded as transgressive desire (Hendershot 27). The audience can sympathize with Marion because they can connect with her character further giving a sense of realism to the viewer. Hitchcock

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