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The Suspense of Horror

Alfred Hitchcock’s film Psycho is without a question the first film of its kind. Before the film came out in 1960 many “horror” films simply expressed a scare factor many times through a monster. Psycho is the first non classic Hollywood film that takes the horror genre and creates a more suspenseful approach, creating a new level of scare. Hitchcock’s auteur style and other suspense characteristics allow for the film to show little to no blood, but allow for the viewers to believe a gory death occurred.

Perhaps the most suspenseful part of the film is watching the character Norman Bates look through a peephole into Marion Crane’s room. The  scene allows for the viewers to get that suspense factor and wonder what is Marion’s fate. The viewer also is never given the true reason behind this voyeuristic action performed. The next collection of scene simply shows a figure stabbing Marion to death. During the stabbing scene the viewer does not know if it is indeed Norman, or perhaps it is Norman’s mother a character not yet featured on screen.

The shower stabbing scene is by far the most famous scenes of this featured film. Hitchcock was a smart man; he was able to give the idea that Marion was naked, without any need to express full nudity. Classic Hollywood films had very strict moral codes and nudity was not one allowed on screen, neither was the use of gory blood shots. However, Hitchcock walked right on the line when it came to those production codes. The blood in the scene was not gory nor was it displayed, but the viewer was able to get a feel for the horrific action; the screaming of Marion allowed for true suspense too.

Many other classic Hollywood films have death scenes within the picture, but Psycho took death and murder to another level. Classic Hollywood films, for example Mildred Pierce, used guns to commit murders, but Psycho used a knife. The use of a knife created that slasher type of genre. This knife approach, a sweeping motion up and down along with the highs and lows of the music created suspense.

Psycho also creates suspense within it’s name, Psycho. Not only is the movie a horror film that takes a suspenseful approach, but the movie is also a psychological thriller. The viewer is able to see what is shown on screen, but is never fully allowed in the mind of the characters on screen. Yes Marion does have inner conversations of others during a voiceover scene, but the viewer does not know entirely why she is stealing the money and going to Sam. Also, the viewer does not know why Marion was murdered. The viewer is given some range, but very little depth when it comes to the narrative. Thus creating more suspense and more horror for the film. It is not until the end of the film that the viewer learns that Norman is acting as his mother. Even this idea is suspenseful to the audience, because it is the unknown even at the end.

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One response to “The Suspense of Horror

  1. The shower sequence was definitely one of the most recognizable scenes in the history of film. Before production, Hitchcock decided to shoot the movie in black and white because it would be make the shower scene less gory. The scene was an issue when Hitchcock was trying to get the film past the Production Code, which is why the scene has so many cuts in order to avoid any explicit violence or nudity.

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