Psycho is a movie full of surprising twists turns. There are so many it’s not easy to review the film without discussing them. If you have not seen this movie then I would suggest it is best to not know too much about it. Being as iconic as it is, it’s hard for anyone to not know at least a little about the famous shower scene, Norman Bates, and the Bates Motel. But even knowing those things does not necessarily make the twists and turns less suspenseful.
Psycho is a film that takes it time. Alfred Hitchcock is not called the “Master of Suspense” for nothing. The audience is not introduced to Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) for nearly a half hour; there is no foreshadowing nor even the slightest hint of Bates’ existence until the film’s heroine, Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), meets him.
Psycho is a subversive film on many levels. It constantly plays with audience expectations. The constant turning makes it hard to know what to think or expect. That’s not to imply the film is confusing; it is not. It’s just a film very good at not allowing the audience to guess what will happen next.
Marion Crane, herself, is the antithesis of a typical movie heroine. The film opens with Marion having an afternoon tryst in a cheap Motel with her boyfriend Sam (John Gavin). Marion parades in front of a window wearing only a bra and slip. She wants to marry Sam, but he claims all his money goes to alimony payments to his ex-wife and he cannot afford to support her. In desperation, Marion steals $40,000 in cash from her boss and embarks on a road trip that is supposed to lead to Sam, who lives in another town. However, she ends up lost and at the Bates Motel.
So we have a heroine who has sex with her boyfriend in cheap motels in the middle of the day, who is also a thief. Still we do root for Marion. Maybe it’s her boss’s drunken client leering all over her, or the fact that she has a perfectly nice boyfriend who would like to marry her but can’t. It’s not hard to relate to Marion at all. After she is just someone who wants a little more out of life than what she has.
Norman Bates, on the other hand, is not all relatable to most people. Marion becomes all the more sympathetic in her plight the more she interacts with Bates. Bates is charming enough at first; he seems just a little nervous and shy, but there is something off about him. It’s that little something that makes us want Marion to get away from him as fast as she can, but of course she doesn’t. That’s where the audience is turned on its head. The main character, the character the audience has identified with and rooted for is brutally murdered and who are we left with?