It’s no understatement to claim that Alfred Hitchcock is one of cinema’s greatest directors. Some might argue that Hitchcock’s 1960 film Psycho is a thriller, but in actuality, it is a serious piece of horror cinema. Bernard Herrmann’s iconic score is flawless, while great visuals and storytelling make this eminently re-watchable.
For all its terror, Psycho implies most of its violence rather than showing it. The audience must fill in the blanks, tricking the mind into believing that it’s much more gratuitous than it is. Herrmann’s shrieking score helps ramp up the terror, again adding a shorthand to horror’s lexicon.
Psycho effectively spawned the slasher film and helped move the horror genre away from monsters and into the realm of psychological terror. John Carpenter’s 1978 release Halloween literally shares the same DNA as Psycho (Curtis is the daughter of the film’s star, Janet Leigh). Both films deal with psychiatric horror, the killers in both could live in the real world – they are flesh and blood monsters and that makes them terrifying.
Hitchcock’s film has seen two theatrical sequels in 1983 and 1986 and an ill-advised remake from Gus Van Sant in 1998. There was a television movie in 1987 called Bates Motel which was a failed pilot that followed a creepy family which took over the titular hotel. That was also the name of a show which ran from 2013-2017 following the life of a young Norman Bates and his mother. Psycho IV: The Beginning, a 1990 made-for-cable sequel/prequel covered much of the same ground as that new series.
Starring Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, John Gavin, Vera Miles and Martin Balsam, Psycho was based on Robert Bloch‘s 1959 novel of the same name. Adapted for the screen by Joseph Stefano, the film grossed $32 million at the US box office in 1960.
This image shows Alfred Hitchcock directing Janet Leigh during Psycho‘s now iconic shower scene (which was storyboarded by the great Saul Bass).