Sunday, October 30, 2005

31 Days of Des' Horror Favourites: #2 Psycho

Why I like it: I need to explain myself? Very well. I'll keep it short.

Alfred Hitchcock. The man is certainly one of the greatest filmmakers to every sit in the canvas-backed chair. He was perfect at keeping his audience in the dark as much as the victims and adversely he was awesome at letting the viewer know upcoming events before the victims. These are two very important things in horror. Often done poorly, Hitchcock uses these conventions and his own added tricks to make movies that are enjoyable.

I must mention Robert Bloch who wrote this originally as a perfect novel of psychological suspense. Bloch was quite a screenwriter as well contributing scripts to Rod Serling's Night Gallery and a few of the better Star Trek episodes.

Marion Crane (the beautiful Janet Leigh) has embezzled money from her boss and is fleeing West. She decides to stop at the tiny Bates Motel for a night's rest as the visibility on the road is minimal due to the torrential downpour. The scene is set.

The Motel is run by Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) a young man slightly dominated by his mother. He also seems to have a fascination with taxidermy. It is very clear by the time this movie gets going that Bates has issues with women. His portrayal is mesmerizing and iconicly uncomfortable. Chilling.

I won't say much more about this movie because I don't want to ruin it for somebody who hasn't seen it (and if you haven't: SHAME ON YOU!) but I am sure that everyone is aware of the shower scene and Bernard Herrman's awesome theme with the high pitched "ree ree ree" of violins. The song itself has become synonymous with stabbing. No other film except perhaps Jaws has cemented itself into the human psyche. An this is probably because this was the first time where a mass appeal movie delved directly into the human mind for the source of horror.

All subsequent horror films (especially slashers) owe a major, major debt to this one.

Check these out:
-Psycho II-IV: The Beginning-If only for Anthony Perkins. The second film is quite amazing as well.
-North by Northwest-Hitchcock directs Cary Grant being chased across America becuase everyone thinks he's a spy. Tense.
-Vertigo-One of Hitchcock's best. Jimmy Stewart has a fear of heights and an unhealthy obsession with Kim Novak. Who doesn't?
-Rear Window-Stewart again stars as a wheelchair-bound voyeur who is convinced his neighbour has been murdered. My second favourite Hitchcock film.
-The Lodger-What Hitchcock considers to be his first true film. A 1926 silent film about a serial killer in London.
-Strangers on a Train-Tense and quick moving Hitchcock murder mystery.
-The Birds- I don't like it but it was the precursor to effective animal horror films.
-Touch of Evil-An Orson Welles film but has a Hitchcock feel. My third favourite movie of all time.
-What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?-Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in an amazing film about jealousy and revenge. Upon further thought this should have made the list.

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