The greatest horror film plot twist of all time took place in 1960 with the spin of a chair.
“Psycho,” directed by Alfred Hitchcock, is irrefutably a classic. It follows secretary Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) who is caught in a thunderstorm while on the run with stolen cash. Exhausted, she stops at Bates Motel for the night, which proves to be a fatal mistake.
The performances are electric. Leigh’s growing anxiety as the plot unfolds is palpable through the screen 63 years later.
Anthony Perkins plays the charming but strange Norman Bates, mastering the art of being just slightly off-putting in an indescribable way. He offers Crane food while he discusses his fondness for taxidermy and his mother, and the audience starts to sweat.
“A boy’s best friend is his mother,” Bates declares – one of the most iconic lines ever delivered.
It is not just the captivating acting that makes “Psycho” so great, however. Its value goes beyond the plot. “Psycho” was a history-maker in both its portrayal of women and villains.
The legendary shower scene in which Bates brutally stabs Crane to the tune of dizzying violin marked the start of something new for cinema. It features Crane shedding her top and stepping into the tub – beyond scandalous at a time when Hollywood was bound by the Hays Code that, amongst other regulations, banned nudity.
The code also prohibited clear depictions of crime methods, lest the viewers decide to try them at home. The shower scene expertly sneaks past this rule with its rapid-fire cuts to different angles – not explicitly showing the incident, but terrifying viewers just as well.
The ending of “Psycho” and the jaw-dropping, gasp-inducing twist solidifies the film as a masterpiece. The audience gets little closure as they gaze into Bates’ eyes in the last shot. He sits in his prison cell – chin tilted down, gaze fixed straight ahead, smiling.
Modern horror owes a lot to “Psycho.” I think back to it every time I see a character slowly raise their arm, knife in hand, and the dramatic music starts.
Thank you, Alfred Hitchcock.
Lily Alexander is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @llilyalexander
Get content from The Daily Lobo delivered to your inbox
Lily Alexander is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted on Twitter @llilyalexander