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.


Un Chien Andalou: Nightmares and Surrealism

Alex Baucom

Un Chien Andalou, a French short film directed by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali, is a very unconventional film for its time and still today. The film, which has no central plot, established setting, or development of character is made up of a sequence of random occurring events that have no apparent connection to each other. This disjointed quality of the film is what makes Dali’s influence very evident. The surrealistic element of Un Chien Andalou makes it reminiscent of a nightmare, one that could have been an exact representation of one had by its creators. This also combines with the satirical aspect of the film, which makes the audience further question its meaning when it wasn’t meant to be dissected.

One of the more nightmarish scenes of this short film was in the beginning, when it showed a man sharpening a straight blade and then cutting a woman’s eye in half. The scene then cuts to a shot of the moon being cut in half by a cloud, which seemed like a mockery of the grotesque eye-cutting scene. These match-in-action scenes that are put together almost give the feel that they’re supposed to be connected, even though the creators stated themselves upon release that there simply was no rhyme or reason to it. This is exemplary of the satirical undertones of the film that has no conventional, logic way to dissect its meaning.

Furthermore, the scene in which ants are infesting an eerily calm human hand is really the only one that is repeated in the film. This is also a nightmarish scene from the short movie that brings in elements from the surreal world and what is actually reality, stemming from what could possibly be a phobia or an unconscious fear. By combining two completely different yet still ordinary things such as a hand and ants, the uncomfortable surrealistic purpose of the movie is established. The hand’s reaction, or lack thereof, was eerily dull compared to a real reaction by someone with ants crawling through their hand. This lends to the theory that this film could have stemmed from dreams or nightmares, because it is common in a nightmare for one to lose reactive abilities to what’s going on around them.

Two thematic elements in the short film that stuck out to me in terms of the dreamlike state of Un Chien Andalou were that of lust, seen in the attempted “rape” scene, and anger, exemplified when a character lashes out and shoots another. These two aspects of the movie heighten the feeling that one is witnessing the randomness of the unconscious dreams because these are common emotions that are manifested in a dream itself. This also gives meaning to the combination of surrealistic and realistic elements that were played out in this movie, and that because of this, it can’t fit perfectly into a puzzle of logic.

In conclusion, Buñuel and Dali’s strange and eye opening short film Un Chien Andalou is one that is difficult to categorize and dissect by what we know as typical film. Although this is true, it’s definitely evident that its purpose was to combine surrealism and realism, illustrated by the possibilities of our unconscious mind. It is an important film to look at in terms of its daring quality and its ability to question audiences everywhere.