Psycho is a 1960 American psychological thriller directed by the legendary Alfred Hitchcock. The film is universally considered to be iconic for film culture and a staple of the thriller or horror genre, introducing many elements of filmmaking that are utilized to this day. With Psycho, Hitchcock broke both social taboos and many cinematic conventions, ushering in a new era of film where new concepts of violence, intimacy, and psychological thrill could be explored (Dollar).
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One of the most taunting and iconic scenes in Psycho is the shower scene when the presumed lead character is unsuspectingly showering and suddenly the curtain is drawn, and she faces a violent stabbing attack from a mysterious person until dying in a dramatic manner. The scene completely upended both the perceptions of the genre as well as far stretching the limits of socio-cultural acceptance in film at the time, in terms of sexuality (the character is naked, although camera work obscures inappropriate nudity) and violence (evident gore and murder in action). The scene is central to the film, as admitted by Hitchcock himself, was the only reason for his involvement with its production.
The use of cinematography in this scene is near perfect as the rapid but consistent changes in shots, cuts, focus create a strong whirlpool of tension for the viewer. The audience feels the vulnerability of the woman as all humans do when naked and showering, facing with this highly disturbing intrusion, and then clearly premeditated calculated murder. Combined with the dramatic music at the apex, the spine-chilling scream of the victim, and the slow zoom into plugholehole as the blood flows transitioning into the woman’s lifeless eye, it creates tremendous horror and disbelief from the viewer that was only a few seconds ago faced with a peaceful scene.
However, Psycho goes beyond its most famous ‘shower scene’ to be an amazing film, good adaptation of the novel, and overall psychological thriller in which undoubtedly the audience shaken by the first 20 minutes, continues to explore the complex motivations of the serial killer. The director is the es excellent juxtaposition of scenes with a sense of realism. For example, after the shower murder, there is a relatively long scene of the killer disposing of the body and cleaning up the bathroom. Unlike most films, there is no montage or quick skip, Hitchcock highlights the reality of the murder where a killer must cover his traces to avoid capture. At the same time, it is relatable to the audience, as someone who has just done the unimaginable, committing cold-blooded murder, is now doing thmedicalal task of cleaning the floor. It is horrifying in a manner since the viewer begins a process of self-exploration since the murderer is not a supernatural creature, but a regular man, your average guy, and any of us could be either him or the victim. Seemingly such a profound psychological exploration was driven by a few simple scenes and perfectly placed highlights the true mastery of filmmaking craft by Hitchcock in this film.
Overall, the film is a perfect mystery thriller, full of visual shocks as well as melodramatic realism. It shocks the audience with murders ththe at exposing the vulnerability and horrifying psychological deformities of the homicidal maniac. Hitchcock emphasizes these tensions with camera work direction which highlights the key elements and tones of the scenes as well as the general use of black and white and shadows to create a sense of mystery and suspense for the viewer.
Dollar, Steve. “Psycho’s Shower Scene: How Hitchcock Upped the Terror—and Fooled the Censors.” History.com, 2018. Web.