As I’ve stated in earlier posts, the horror genre has never been high on my list due to its generally graphic content and its dependency on fright as its primary entertainment value. Nonetheless, as we progress through this section of the class I am finding less and less trepidation when it comes to several of these films. Take, for instance, the subcategory of slasher films. Despite their gory nature, I have come to find them quite predictable due to the limited realm of deathly techniques at the killer’s disposal. Additionally, there is often a comical nature associated with the characters, as though the characters know of their impending doom and the director is making morbid jokes about their inability to survive. In fact, the latest Scream sequel’s television trailer boasts that the film is “hilarious” among other adjectives describing the horrific elements of the film.
I had a similar impression when watching the original cut of Psycho for the first time. As with many of the early films we have watched, the film is comical in what it considers racy, which is almost G-rated in today’s society. However, placing myself in the timing of the film’s release, I can understand how it has developed into a timeless classic. The plot of the movie is genius in the fact that it throws viewers off by killing off the supposed protagonist midway through the film. This throws off the audience to think that perhaps the prior 40 minutes of plot were meaningless.
Additionally, Hitchcock focuses on the psyche of the murderer rather than his actual killings. Thus, the film succeeds where many modern slashers stumble. Rather than inundating viewers with graphic kill after graphic kill, the murderer only successfully kills two characters off during the movie. Nonetheless, by developing the insanity of the character, Hitchcock develops a much scarier character than any mass murderer. The audience sees how and why the killer is so disturbed, earning him empathy and an element of realism. Instead of killing him off at the end of the film, Hitchcock allows the insanity to end the film. Thus, rather than feeling safe and secure that the killer is dead and out of their minds, Psycho’s audience is left to dwell on the madness of the killer and to cope with the understanding that insanity of that nature could exist in the real world.