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The Master of Suspense

Alfred Hitchcock directed the infamous suspense thriller Psycho in 1960. It has become one of the most classic horror films of all time, and one of many films that added to Hitchcock’s legacy of being the “master of suspense.” The many things that Hitchcock draws attention to almost seem pointless, but as a whole these scenes contribute to the suspense while watching. These scenes also add to the growing mystery of who the murderer is, and help to leave the audience’s questions unanswered when the killer is finally revealed.
In the beginning of the film the main character, Marion Crane, gets very tired while driving and falls asleep on the side of the road. In the morning, Marion wakes up in her car to a police officer asking her questions. This police officer follows her as she drives, and she keeps looking back at him in the rear view mirror as suspenseful music plays in the background. This causes the audience to question if the policeman is an evil character or not, when he really plays no major role in the film. He continues to follow her until she pulls into a car dealership and trades her car in and pays $700 cash for the difference. He drives away as Marion gets ready to leave the dealership because having him follow her any longer would have been pointless. This is just one of the many tools Hitchcock uses to create questions and possibilities in the minds of the audience, which in turn adds to the building suspense element seen throughout the course of the film.
The timing of the film also has a lot to do with this buildup of suspense that Hitchcock utilizes. The famous shower murder scene takes place about 50 minutes into the film. To some, this may have been the most climactic, exciting scene of the film, however it takes place barely halfway through it. This scene is not only significant for this reason, but also because it sets a pace to the film in which the audience is horrified early on; therefore, they are even more intrigued than before to continue watching the film to find out who the murderer is.
At this point in the plot there are still multiple twists that lie ahead. The death of the private investigator was not the climax of the movie, however in my opinion it was the most suspenseful point. The way the murder was shot from above the private investigator as the killer makes a clean entrance to the frame, all the while accompanied by loud music, was the most realistic moment of the film. Compared specifically to the shower scene and at the end when we see Bates’ mother it is by far more scary and believable.
This leads to the final suspenseful moment of the film when Bates is dressed up as his mother. He is about to attack Lila but Sam comes back and struggles the knife away from him. In my opinion, the film could have ended here and had a sufficient conclusion. The fact that we get to look deep into the eyes of the now-known killer Norman Bates was another great addition to the creepiness of his character and wraps up the whole story in an eerie but appropriate manner.


3 responses to “The Master of Suspense

  1. rdflood ⋅

    By using suspense throughout the film, Hitchcock is definitely able to keep the audience interested. I agree that even one of the most iconic scenes is only half way through the movie because it intrigues the viewer and wants them to continue watching. Personally, I think that he makes even the little things suspenseful, like the police officer following Marion for the same reason, despite the fact that he never appeared again.

  2. I also thought that it was very interesting that the iconic shower seen took place only half way through the film. After the film starting off restricted to Marion Cane, I was expecting her murder to take place at the very end. I also believe that the shower scene is the most climatic scene in the film. Through Alfred Hitchcock’s use of suspense he is still able to drive the narrative and create suspense throughout the remainder of the film.

  3. I also agree with Aaron. I thought that if any killing would take place it would have happened towards the end of the film. I think the the way in which Hitchcock organized the narrative of the film was ingenious. He truly took the genre of thrillers to another level when we view the film in the eyes of people of that time. I think that even watching the film now i was on the edge of my seat because i did not know what would happen next. I think that the timing is something that Hitchcock uses against his audience. Our expectations of what happens next in the film always gets the best of us.

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