Peek behind the curtain of Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’

Review by NinaMcMullen

When I was little, my best movie memories were with my abuela. My brother and I would get dropped off at her house for the weekend and she would pull out her stacks of VHS movies and let us pick our poison. These movies ranged from “Goonies” and “Monster Squad” to “Pumpkinhead” and “Psycho.” Abuela’s house was the place to be because we knew we were allowed to watch movies our parents would never let us watch normally. 

One of the movies that I only recently learned to appreciate was Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” “Psycho” would come on at my abuela’s house and I would always kind of tune out until I realized my love of film sophomore year. After recently rewatching it and diving deeper into the history of the film, I realized how brilliant and earth shattering this 1960 horror flick was for the film world at the time. 

The biggest hallmark of this film is its infamous shower scene. While there is plenty more about the film to talk about, focusing on the shower scene itself is enough to convince an audience of this film’s genius. This scene, which secured the film a revolutionary rating of “R,” is the culmination of Hitchcock’s ability to shock, enthrall and terrify an audience. In this scene, Anthony Perkins plays Norman Bates and Janet Leigh (mother to current scream queen, Jamie Lee Curtis) portrays Marion Crane. Crane is dealing with her own demons, on the run with $40,000 of stolen money from her employer, as she decides to calm down with a warm shower. 

Every single frame of this sequence contains its own brilliant story. As she is unfortunately stabbed to death by Bates, about a million film conventions were broken. 

Hitchcock demonstrated that he truly is the master of suspense with this one scene. It’s like the classic film saying of hiding a bomb under the table. You want the audience to see the bomb for as long as possible before it goes off. This is exactly why Bates made his entrance to the bathroom slow and controlled. 

For the audience, the scare factor was turned up to 11 just because of the setting. This wasn’t some other worldly creature like Godzilla or Thanos. This villain was a human being, seemingly normal, taking advantage of the victim in the most vulnerable place imaginable. Now, it’s borderline normal to peek behind the shower curtain to make sure no one’s in there any time you enter a bathroom.

Overall, there’s much more to be said about the uproar this film caused for the time. I mean, it was the first film to show a toilet flushing on screen and even that was controversial. 

The history tied to this film for not only filmmakers but little kids sitting in front of their grandma’s VHS collection is vast and nuanced. After I wrote this, I reverted back to my little kid self and had a “Psycho” influenced nightmare. I’m sure it hasn’t been at the top of your “I’m dying to see this movie” list but I hope it’s moved up at least a couple spots.

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