Halloween might be over, but scary movies are always fun to watch. One famous director of such films is Alfred Hitchcock – an early genius and pioneer of the horror genre of film, and with good reason. Most all of his films, although old, are notorious and must-watches among horror fans.
The reason movies such as Hitchcock’s stay interesting and become staples of the horror genre may be varied. Perhaps it was the cinematography. Or the suspense. Or the storytelling. Or the charisma of the characters. Or the visceral scares. Or a combination of all the above. In the case of Hitchcock’s 1960 film “Psycho,” it is definitely a combination of all the above.
For its time, “Psycho” was a cutting-edge masterpiece of horror. Hitchcock’s brilliance in storytelling and passion for getting things exactly as he wanted them really shows. Everything from how shots were filmed to the ingenuity of certain design choices stands out. One major note is that, yes, it was possible for the film to be shot in color, though Hitchcock purposely shot the movie in black and white. This creates a cold and moody atmosphere fitting of a Hitchcock film and the added benefit of making the “blood” used in the film appear more real. That helped tremendously since they actually used chocolate syrup for blood.
Camera angles and positioning are used to great effect as well. Tight shots and quick cuts in the infamous ‘shower’ scene convey fear, brutality, and horror in droves. Of course, this is not the only scene in the whole movie that conveys emotion through camera work. There is also the scene in which one of the main characters, Marion, is pulled over by a police officer. The entire scene is shot so that you are either with Marion looking up at the officer, or beside the officer looking down at Marion. It conveys a sense of power in the officer and nervousness and helplessness in Marion. There is also a scene in which Norman Bates carries his mother down a flight of steps. It’s filmed in one long shot, with the camera high in the ceiling, obscuring both their faces. It conveys a sense of mystery and being far removed from what is happening.
Lastly, the way Hitchcock directs the storytelling is captivating. The audience’s attention goes exactly where Hitchcock wants it to. The way shots are set up and characters’ delivery of dialogue structures the plot so that the viewer does not suspect the twist until the moment is there – which, if you don’t already know it – is masterful.
“Psycho” is a movie over 50 years old. The plot is simple, as are most of the characters; the dialogue is sometimes cheesy, and so are some of the effects. Yet, at the time, they were cutting-edge, and the movie is still a classic for a reason. Set aside all the aforementioned minor details, and what is left is an atmospheric, well-crafted piece of both film and cinematography. “Psycho” is a film for fans of horror, classic film, good cinematography, noir, or just good movies.